The City of Lufkin is implementing changes at Kurth Memorial Animal Shelter following the announcement that long-time director Aaron Ramsey is leaving to focus on his family and military career.

Ramsey, who has served the City since 2013, will be deployed this summer for a year-long, overseas tour. With nearly 20 years of military service, the Army major and former Marine said he wants to spend the next several weeks enjoying quality time with his family before his sixth year-long deployment.

During Ramsey’s tenure, the shelter’s euthanasia rate dropped from nearly 90 percent more than a decade ago to a record low of 28 percent last year thanks to his leadership and the tenacity of dedicated shelter volunteers.

“I have genuinely enjoyed working in this challenging position and will always cherish my time here,” Ramsey said. “I believe my departure will be an opportunity for the City to find a new leader with fresh ideas and new patterns of thought on the many challenges of municipal animal sheltering and the very high homeless animal population in this area.”

With Ramsey’s announcement, city officials are now evaluating the appointment of an interim director. Asst. City Manager Gerald Williamson said the ideal candidate will have a skill set that encompasses the changing role of animal services.

“City administration realized the need tobroaden our focus to not just animal control but animal rescue and sheltering,” Williamson said. “With Aaron’s help, we have been working toward that goal. Although he’s leaving, we won’t back away from that effort.”

The City’s first step in broadening its animal services focus includes the hiring of longtime shelter volunteer Leslie Anders as the City’s first-ever animal services program and rescue coordinator.

“We believe that with Leslie onboard we will achieve a more coordinated and directed volunteer effort which will lead to an even lower euthanasia rate and a higher level of care for the animals that come to our attention,” Williamson said.

Anders, who has dedicated 11 years to volunteering at the shelter, said she can’t wait to get started in her new role next month.

“I am incredibly excited for this new role and the opportunity to provide additional support, ideas, and progress for our community and the homeless animals of Angelina County,” Anders said. “I was looking forward to working with Aaron, but I certainly want to thank him for his accomplishments and wish him well in his future endeavors.”

City management will appoint an interim director soon with plans to conduct an extensive search for a permanent director in the months to come.