Director and lead veterinarian leave Oregon Zoo

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The agency in charge of the Oregon Zoo did not explain the abrupt departure of the zoo's top manager and top veterinarian Monday.

According to Metro spokesman Jim Middaugh, a policy against commenting on personnel matters prevents the agency from explaining why the zoo's director, Kim Smith, and lead veterinarian, Mitch Finnegan, both left their positions.

Both individuals played a key role in management at the Oregon Zoo.

Finnegan oversaw veterinary services at the zoo, as well as the zoo's veterinary center. He managed a staff of four additional veterinarians - three full-time and one part-time.

Smith took over as zoo director in 2010, less than two months after an audit concluded construction projects at the zoo had been plagued by delays and cost overruns.

She will be replaced on an interim basis by Metro's General Manager of Visitor Venues, Teri Dresler, who was also a former deputy director at the zoo. Dresler also worked on the zoo staff in other roles for 10 years, from 1995 to 2005.

Metro will also begin the process of determining a new "vision" for the Oregon Zoo by soliciting input from stakeholders as it launches the hunt for a new director.