GAINESVILLE - The Board of Directors for the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia (HSNEGA) has announced that Rick Aiken, executive director of the shelter, will be retiring in 2013 after 24 years of service. Aiken has led HSNEGA as executive director since 1989.
"When Rick was hired, the shelter was days away from permanently closing, and now it is a thriving organization that has served millions of pets and people in our community," says Sid Chandler, president of the HSNEGA Board of Directors. "It will be a real challenge to find a leader who can fill his shoes."
Among his many accomplishments at HSNEGA, Aiken led the capital campaign for the shelter in 1998, taking HSNEGA from a cinder-block building with outdoor runs to an impressive, modern shelter with all-indoor kennels. Under his tenure, Aiken also led the organization in establishing a low-cost Spay/Neuter Center, which will soon reach the milestone of 40,000 surgeries, and transitioning from an open door facility to a selective admission shelter which no longer euthanizes due to space or tenure.
Before coming to HSNEGA, Aiken worked in zoos throughout the Southeast and, later, served locally as the senior district executive for the Northeast Georgia Council of the Boy Scouts of America. His unique background of wildlife management and non-profit operations made him an excellent candidate for his role at HSNEGA.
"In many ways, Rick has become synonymous with the Humane Society," Chandler says. "Anyone who knows Rick knows that animals have always come first. He is a very caring person who has gone out of his way for rescued, homeless animals and pet owners in this community, as well as the shelter staff."
As for Aiken, he says while it will not be easy leaving, he knows it is time for him to retire."Being a shelter director requires being on duty 24 hours a day, 365 days a year-it doesn't leave room for much else," Aiken says. "I am extremely proud of the accomplishments that have been made during my time at the Humane Society, and I know the shelter can only continue to grow, but I think it is time for new leadership to take the reins and take us to the next level."
"There are too many to name, but I also want to thank those who have supported me and the shelter while I have been director and helped make HSNEGA what it is today," Aiken adds. "I've always said that I cannot believe they pay me to do this job-it's not often you find a job you really love and that allows you to come in contact with so many generous people."
Plans are being made for several celebrations in 2013 to honor Aiken's work at HSNEGA. These events will be announced in early 2013, the Centennial year for the shelter which was founded in 1913. HSNEGA's Board of Directors has established an executive search committee which will begin seeking Aiken's replacement beginning in October.