Sanders Lewallen, CEO of the Flint RiverQuarium, made an address to the Albany Rotary Thursday regarding what lies ahead for the facility.
ALBANY -- After three months on the job, the CEO of the Flint RiverQuarium says he believes the facility has great potential.
And he wants to see it reach that potential.
Sanders Lewallen addressed the Albany Rotary Thursday regarding the challenges currently faced by the RiverQuarium, and how they can be resolved in order to keep the facility going.
From the beginning, Lewallen -- a native of north Georgia -- said he was impressed with the RiverQuarium.
"I saw the job advertised in April of this year, after I had been in Florida for 12 years," he recalled. "(My wife and I) had talked about coming back to Georgia.
"When I saw the job was in Albany, I looked into it a little more. I was bursting with pride that a facility like this was in Georgia."
Lewallen noted that the RiverQuarium surpassed 500,000 visitors earlier this year, and receives visits from school groups from 57 counties in Georgia -- and from Florida and Alabama as well.
"It's a wonderful thing for south Georgia," he said. "We haven't turned every stone, but we can always do more there.
"The heart of the matter is, we are an educational institution."
The new CEO acknowledges that he has inherited the RiverQuarium at a time in which it is under financial pressure, which he is prepared to tackle.
"A good organization has to appeal effectively and assertively to get the returns we need to survive," he said. "There are many challenges affecting everyone out there. There's (a lot of pressure) on those representing the taxpayers (regarding funding) for organizations like ours.
"We need to find a sustainable approach to our financial problem and find a way to get out of the problem. We want to make the case that we are a worthy investment and that we will be good stewards of our money."
In light of that, Lewallen said he hopes for a future in which exhibits will become better and staff will be "as lean and mean" as possible.
One method will be to get out and start talking to people the RiverQuarium hasn't communicated with in a while, the CEO said.
"We are in a situation we need to manage our way out of. We have taken on the job, and we will embrace it," he said.
Also at the Rotary meeting, the Rotary Foundation presented a check for $2,500 to First Tee of Albany and Girls Inc., which will be used for scholarships to fund golf lessons -- and life-value lessons -- to 60 girls.