Springfield, MO

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2016 40 Under 40 Honoree: Erin Hitsman, 38

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The common thread that binds Erin Hitsman’s professional and civic leadership is her unique ability to harness the power of volunteerism. Hitsman manages 50 volunteers for the Dickerson Park Zoo Ambassador program that’s been instrumental for guest services staffing and production of special events. Her coordination and mentorship also extends to oversight of a couple college interns each semester. Outside of the demands of her job, Hitsman serves on Greene County’s Restorative Justice Board where she mentors first time offenders as they complete conditions of their probation or parole.

What was your first job? Beginning at age 13, I babysat. My first official job was a stocker and cashier at the local grocery store.

What is your theme song? “Big Yellow Taxi,” by Joni Mitchell.

What was your professional “aha” moment? When I decided to move from working as an animal keeper to administration. I can do more for zoo and the animals focusing on the big picture through engaging the public, as well as working with volunteers, donors, community partners and businesses.

Besides your family, what’s your most treasured possession? My chickens!

What did you learn the hard way?
It really is all about who you know.

Where’s your favorite place for a business lunch?
Grad School

What historical figure do you identify with most?
Rachel Carson, for her work inspiring an environmental movement leading to the development of the Environmental Protection Agency.


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