Julie Seal, the new head of the Healdsburg Animal Shelter, has been on the job only two weeks, but the early reviews are glowing.
"She is a dynamo. She is unbelievable, she is fabulous," said Kathleen McCaffrey, president of the shelter's board of directors. "She has so many skill sets. We're delighted the Healdsburg Animal Shelter gets to benefit by them."
Seal has a background working with animal welfare organizations, as well as fund-raising, which will help raising $1 million needed to complete the new shelter, now under construction on Westside Road.
She also is concentrating in other areas, beefing up shelter staff, ramping up the volunteer and foster program and raising the profile of the shelter and its animals.
One testament to her skills is the longevity of her own pets — three cats, two of whom are 21 years old.
"One has no teeth and is deaf as a stone," she said, adding that she plans to add a dog to her personal menagerie to replace one that died.
The other sign of her commitment to her work is that she took "a significant pay cut to take the job."
While her salary was not disclosed, McCaffrey acknowledged it is well below six figures.
"We're not paying her half of what she could be getting," the board president said.
Seal has extensive experience with animals, beginning in 1995 when she founded RESCUE, an Arizona organization that saves animals scheduled to be euthanized.
It grew to a paid staff of three along with 400 volunteers. The organization "gave almost 10,000 cats and dogs that greatest gift of all — a second chance of life," she said. "We would get them healthy and find them homes."
She then served a stint as development director of the Sonoma County Humane Society, before being hired by Anova, a non-profit that works with special needs children to help them succeed in school.
Seal said the work was worthwhile, but she missed her passion with animal welfare. "This is where I believe I can make a difference," she said.
The Healdsburg shelter has had a rapid turnover of executive directors in recent years, including one who lasted only four months before being let go last summer.
As executive director, Seal will oversee a staff of nine employees, two of whom are part-time. The shelter's budget is around $500,000. Of that, $108,000 comes from Healdsburg to take care of animal control in city limits.
Seal also is connecting with donors to help fund the operation of the new shelter that will replace the cramped 50-year-old current facility.
Other changes are in the works.
"You will start to see the Healdsburg Animal Shelter involved more in the community. Instead of waiting for people to come to the shelter, we'll be takings animals out to the community," she said.
To that end, an "adopt-a—thon," in which dogs and cats are available for adoption at half-price, is scheduled for Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Olive Leaf, 206 Healdsburg Ave.