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About Riverbanks

Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is home to more than 2,000 magnificent and fascinating animals and one of the nation’s most beautiful and inspiring botanical gardens. The Zoo first opened its gates to the local community on April 25, 1974, and has continued for more than four decades to provide individuals, families and groups with a common place to connect with and learn about the world’s wildlife and wild places. Today Riverbanks is one of the largest mid-sized zoos in the United States and South Carolina’s leading destination attraction, boasting a national reputation as one of America’s best zoos and drawing one million visitors annually.

In June 1995 Riverbanks Botanical Garden opened to the public. The extraordinary garden blooms year-round with more than 4,300 species of native and exotic plants and provides a living classroom for gardeners and non-gardeners alike. The formal Walled Garden offers a picture-perfect location for weddings and special events. One of Riverbanks’ newest attractions, Waterfall Junction, opened April 7, 2016. The 3-acre interactive children’s garden within the Botanical Garden inspires exploration, imagination and nature play with tree houses, a dinosaur bone dig, splash zones and plenty of room to roam.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1973, Riverbanks is also the site of structural remains dating back to the early 1800s with South Carolina’s textile industry and the Civil War. Historic ruins can be seen from various locations along the footbridge linking the Zoo and Garden as well as along the naturally wooded River Trail.

Mission Statement

It is the mission of Riverbanks Zoo and Garden to create meaningful connections and inspire actions that will have a lasting impact on conservation. We are dedicated to providing the highest standards of care for our animals and plants, delivering a diverse educational and high-quality recreational experience for all Riverbanks visitors, and utilizing all available resources for the conservation of the earth's flora and fauna.

Executive Biographies

Thomas K. “Tommy” Stringfellow President & CEO

With more than 25 years of experience in the zoo and attractions industries, Tommy Stringfellow is the third executive to oversee the Zoo in its 43-year-history. He began his career at the Zoo and Garden in 2002 as director of marketing and was promoted to chief operating officer in 2011.

Prior to joining Riverbanks, Stringfellow was the Director of Sales and Marketing for Six Flags over Georgia Theme Park, Six Flags Whitewater Water Park and American Adventures Family Entertainment Center. There he was responsible for generating over 3 million annual visitors and generating 12 million in admissions and sponsorship revenue.

Earlier, Stringfellow was the Director of Sales and Marketing for Six Flags Great Escape and Waterpark in upstate New York. In addition to his theme park responsibilities, he directed the sales and marketing efforts for three hotels and two restaurants that were owned and operated by the Six Flags Company.

Stringfellow laid the foundation for his career working for Paramount Parks, Inc., which owned and operated five major theme parks and several prototype themed attractions. He climbed through the ranks in park operations management positions to Director of Sales during his tenure with Paramount Parks.

An active member of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums and the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, Stringfellow is a graduate of Winthrop University and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Marketing. He has recently served terms on the Marketing Advisory Committee for AZA and both the Columbia Metropolitan of Conventions and Visitors Bureau and Atlanta Convention and Tourism Board.

Stringfellow is a native South Carolinian and is married with two sons and one daughter.

Breta Rheney Chief Financial Officer

Riverbanks welcomed the return of Breta Rheney as chief financial officer in April 2016. The University of South Carolina graduate is a certified public accountant (CPA) who brings more than 30 years of accounting experience to the Zoo. Rheney was most recently employed by the South Carolina Public Employee Benefit Authority (PEBA) as controller in the insurance finance area. Prior to her initial term at Riverbanks (May 2011 – October 2013), Rheney was the director of finance and controlling at Ebewe Parenta Pharmaceuticals, an internationally-owned generic pharmaceutical company. She also is the immediate past-president of the Government Finance Officers Association of South Carolina (GFOASC).

Mary Howard Chair, Riverbanks Park Commission

Mrs. Mary Howard has actively served as a member of the Riverbanks Park Commission, representing Lexington County, since December 2007. Prior to becoming chair, she also served for two years as vice-chair (2014–2016) and two years as treasurer (2012–2014).

After teaching for several years, Howard began her employment with the late Congressman Floyd Spence in 1981. She was promoted to District Administrator of the Second Congressional District in 1992. Nine years later, she accepted the role of District Administrator for Congressman Joe Wilson and served in that capacity until her retirement in 2004.

Howard also is a past president of the Riverbanks Society’s Board of Directors—the private, non-profit membership-based organization that supports the needs of the Zoo and Garden. In addition, she has served as a member of the Lexington Medical Center Foundation Board, as corresponding secretary for Friends of the Lexington County Museum and is a sustaining member and past president of the Lexington Woman’s Club.

Howard is a native of Hartsville and holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Education from the University of South Carolina. She and her husband Jerry have three children and five grandchildren.

Learn more about Riverbanks Park Commission.

Derrick L. Williams President, Riverbanks Society

President of the Riverbanks Society Board, Derrick L. Williams has served on the Board since January 2014.

Williams currently practices with the firm of Mickle & Bass, where he is a partner. His practice is devoted to representing injured workers, and he is also a certified mediator.

Formerly a South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commissioner, Williams was one of the youngest-ever Commissioners to be appointed to that role. He served as Commissioner from 2007 until 2013, when he decided to return to private practice.

Prior to joining the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission, Williams was an associate at a national law firm based in South Carolina. He practiced in the areas of business litigation, franchise and distribution litigation, and labor and employment.

Born in Florence, South Carolina, Williams and his family moved later to Columbia, South Carolina, where he graduated from Dreher High School. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English in the Honors Program at the College of Charleston in 1999 and later earned a Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 2002, where he was a member of the South Carolina Environmental Law Journal.

In addition to his service as Riverbanks Society Board President, Williams currently serves on the College of Charleston Alumni Board and the College of Charleston Honors College Board. He is also an active member in the American Bar Association, where he is involved in the T.I.P.S. Workers’ Compensation Section Williams is a member of the John Belton O’Neall American Inn of Court and serves on the South Carolina Board of Law Examiners.

Learn more about Riverbanks Society.