The Sampson County Animal Shelter has a new leader and county officials didn’t have to look far to find her.
Sampson native Anna Ellis has been selected as the new Animal Shelter director, replacing Alan Canady, who was in the position since the beginning of 2013 before departing earlier this year.
Ellis is a graduate of Mount Olive College, earning with a degree in Business Management. She is a resident of Sampson County and has worked at the shelter for the past five years, including serving as shelter manager under the former department director and as interim director since May 7.
“We’re just glad to have her,” County manager Ed Causey said while introducing Ellis at Monday night’s regular Sampson Board of Commissioners meeting.
There were 17 applicants for the position and six were interviewed before Ellis was selected from the group.
“I have strong ties here,” said Ellis, a lifelong resident of Sampson. She has a 7-year-old daughter. “My mother worked in the Clinton City Schools for 32 years, my father has worked at Smithfield Packing for over 35 years and my brother has been at Prestage Farms for over 10 years. Sampson County is my home and I have always wanted the opportunity to give back to my community.”
Since 2012, Ellis has coordinated or assisting in spearheading adoption programs and shelter renovations, while also assisting in dismantling the antiquated gas chamber in favor of a more humane form of euthanasia. She became the shelter manager in 2013 and has served in recent months as the interim director.
“During that four-month period, it has allowed me to demonstrate my skills and knowledge and prove that I am capable of being the director,” Ellis attested. “I’ve had the opportunity to work with two great directors during my time, which were Lori (Baxter) and Alan. I have learned a lot from them — the daily needs of the shelter and keeping down the diseases within the shelter.”
Even though Ellis is already settling in at the new position, she detailed her qualifications, certifications and the traits she felt put her in a good position for success at the shelter.
“Although I have no vet experience, I have demonstrated hands-on experience when it comes to animals and have developed a positive working relationship with the veterinarians the shelter utilizes,” Ellis said, noting her state certifications. She said her business degree also prepares her for the budgetary process — and cost-cutting — that comes with the directorial position.
“I look forward to serving this county and I am open to any ideas or suggestions that people may have,” Ellis remarked.
Board chairman Billy Lockamy pointed to Ellis’ time with the shelter.
“You know the ins and outs. It’s a hot seat, you know that,” Lockamy stated to laughs. ” I always said that county manager is the first hot seat and animal shelter is probably the second. I’m not trying to scare you.”
Other commissioners similarly welcomed Ellis.
“I’ve heard nothing but good things about you and what you’ve done,” said Commissioner Clark Wooten. “As the chairman said it’s a contentious spot, but from what I hear you have the skills to mitigate that and make it a good place for the animals. You have our support and we want you to keep it up.”
Commissioner Harry Parker said there was “something special” about Ellis that made the county choose her among 17 applicants, wishing her well. Commissioner Sue Lee echoed that, saying she has known Ellis for a long time and felt she would do a great job.
Ellis said that is her aim.
“I have a passion for the animals of Sampson County that is shared my many in our community. I look forward to partnering with the community, our veterinarians, administration and the board to meet the shelter’s needs,” said Ellis. “I would like to educate people within the county on being responsible pet owners. One of my main goals as director is to save more lives and keep diseases down within the shelter.”
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