GUILFORD COUNTY, NC -- A new year is a chance for new beginnings and the Guilford County Animal Shelter hopes a new leader will give them a new image in 2018.
Jorge Ortega was introduced Tuesday as the new director of Guilford County Animal Services, the third person to fill that position in about two years.
It was bitterly cold outside of the shelter, but Ortega was greeted by county leaders with a warm welcome.
“I'm excited. A little bit overwhelmed since I just moved here last night. Kids start school tomorrow and I'm still unpacking. So there's a lot that's happening from the second day of 2018,” said Ortega. “But I'm really looking forward to the opportunities that we have to change the image that we are having here at the Guilford County animal shelter.”
On Tuesday, Ortega spent time walking around the facility – getting to know his team and the animals at the shelter.
He knows he's stepping into the job at a critical time.
“What Guilford County needs is a strong and dedicated team within the animal welfare community,” said Ortega.
The last two and a half years have been a revolving door of controversy for Guilford Co. Animal Services.
The shelter was the subject for multiple state investigations into the mistreatment of animals.
The shelter has also been through two directors who both left after less than a year on the job.
Now, Ortega says his first priority is to repair the shelter's image to the community.
“The things that we really want to start changing from the get go is what the community sees as the animal shelter,” said Ortega. “I want to definitely start working on that perception.”
Ortega has worked in animal welfare for more than 20 years, most recently with the ASPCA in New York.
Ortega says he has some ideas for how to improve the service offered at the shelter including updates to the team's standard operating procedure.
“It's all going to be on what our program services and our operating procedures look like,” said Ortega. “Those are the things that are really going to take most of my time in the beginning till I get those things so that we can improve on those.”
But to truly make the animal shelter successful, Ortega knows he'll need all the help he can get.
"It's not just the shelter needs to come together and start making a difference,” he said. “It's the community of Guilford that needs to come together."
Ortega has been involved in the construction of two new animal shelters in his previous jobs.
He says he plans to bring that experience to the table to help Guilford County Commissioners design a new animal shelter facility locally.