Seattle Aquarium is reported searching for a new director on June 6, 1981, after founding director is forced out in dispute with City.

  • By Patrick McRoberts
  • Posted 1/01/2000
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 2192
On June 6, 1981, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that the Seattle Aquarium, facing a drop in attendance and revenue, is searching for a new director. Doug Kemper, Aquarium director since the museum opened four years ago, has been forced out after disagreements with the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department.

Kemper and Walter Hundley (1929-2002), the parks director, disagreed over management style. Hundley argued that the aquarium suffered from "general management problems," whereas in Kemper's view the City was not supportive of aquarium programs. A case in point was the Tropical Pacific Exhibit, which was scheduled for completion two years before and was not yet done. Kemper cited lack of support from the Park Department, as well as inflexible policies.

Kemper had been quite open in supporting a shift of management from the City to a non-profit organization. Parks Department director of operations and interim aquarium director Bud Girtch said the aquarium should be self-supporting in order to qualify for non-profit management, but in fact required City subsidies.

However, Kemper cited limitations on revenues imposed by the City. For example, the book and gift store at the aquarium was franchised to a private operator under a 20-year contract. Kemper noted that the store grossed $460,000 last year, of which the City received only $82,000.

Hundley pledged to move immediately to find a new director.


Sources: Hill Williams, "Revenue Loss: Aquarium Seeking New Director," The Seattle Times, June 6, 1981, p. D-12.

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