SBJ photo by McKenzie Robinson

2020 Most Influential Women: Joey Powell

Dickerson Park Zoo

Posted online

Joey Powell has learned being a leader means bringing out the best in other people.

“A leader seeks to discover the strengths, talents and abilities of others and is willing to let others shine in their own ways,” she says.

It’s a practice she’s applied in her role at Dickerson Park Zoo. She’s worked for the zoo and its affiliated Friends of the Zoo nonprofit organization as public relations and marketing director since 2016.

While the animals naturally take center stage, Powell made it a point to bring attention to the zookeepers when she started her position. She featured them in media interviews, social media posts, Facebook Live videos and community presentations.

“Just because I had the PR director title did not mean it had to be my voice or face in the spotlight,” she says. “Letting the keepers shine, and respecting their opinions and expertise, continues to be one of the best assets for the zoo’s image.”

After the zoo temporarily closed in March amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Powell acted quickly to keep the facility relevant and top of mind. She launched a letters to the animals concept, in which staff read submissions from the public to the zoo occupants. The campaign elicited over 500 letters, as well as local and national media attention, such as NBC Nightly News.

“When I got the email from NBC requesting an interview and footage of the zoo, I actually screamed,” she says. “Letters to the animals became a bright spot in a very dark time.”

Aside from rallying behind her staff, Powell says she’s a “cheerleader for mentoring,” noting she’s had five interns during her four years at the zoo. During that time, she’s also created and guided semester-long group projects for Missouri State University business and communication students.

“I love being a part of their lives and seeing them succeed,” she says.

A graduate of Leadership Springfield Signature Class 33, she’s now an adviser for the organization’s Leadership Academy, a free program for high school juniors.

Attorney Ashley Norgard says she became close with Powell in 2017 as a fellow class member of Leadership Springfield.

“In a room full of leaders, Joey rose to the top,” Norgard says. “She leads with positivity, endless enthusiasm and justified confidence. She knows how to unite people around an idea and execute plans.”

Away from the zoo, Powell has devoted a quarter-century as a volunteer guest lecturer for the pre-shows at the Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts. It taps into her love of the stage, having previously served for five years as an instructor and choreographer for Springfield Little Theatre.

“These talks are a chance for patrons to learn more about the show they are about to see as well as theater in general,” she says. “Live theater is an asset to any community, and I am honored to have spent years sharing about musical theater.”

She’s also currently a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ozarks and a former board member of Honor Flight of the Ozarks.