Not only is she Director of Aurora Animal Care & Control, one of The Association’s Midwest Regional Representatives, and President of the Illinois Animal Welfare Federation…. she even started her own holiday. Read on for more about the unstoppable Anna Payton.
Name: Anna Payton
Member of The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement since: 2014
Organization: Aurora Animal Care & Control
Q&A with Anna Payton
The Association: Describe yourself in 3 words.
Anna Payton: Compassionate, determined, funny.
The Association: Tell us about your favorite challenge as Director of Aurora Animal Care & Control.
Anna Payton: It is hard to pick just one. Trying to figure out how we can best serve our community is one of my favorites. We must continue to evolve as our community’s needs change. I actually enjoy the challenge of adapting and trying new things.
Along those lines, being an open admission shelter, we never know what animal is going to come through the doors, which keeps things interesting. Some highlights already this year include the surrender of 32 rabbits (including some who were pregnant), a stray rooster, and a stray turkey.
Also, there is still a negative perception of animal control organizations by the general public, and I enjoy the challenge of changing their minds.
The Association: What’s one small victory you had this week—personally or professionally?
Anna Payton: Professionally: Getting the rooster into a farm sanctuary.
Personally: Reconnecting with an old colleague.
The Association: Thank you for being a track chair in the Spring Conference committee. Tell us a little about the field services track.
Anna Payton: We have such a dynamic lineup for the field services track for this year’s conference. Each topic is so timely in terms of we what have gone through and are still going through in the past year—everything from the positive impact of revising policies and getting buy-in from municipal stakeholders to ACO safety. I’m really looking forward to all of the field services sessions!
The Association: The theme of this year’s conference is inclusion, with a pretty broad definition in order to be, well, more inclusive. In that spirit, in what ways have you expanded your thinking or initiatives at Aurora AC&C to include ideas or practices you hadn’t considered before?
Anna Payton: Prior to everything shutting down, we had made partnerships with our local food pantries so they could provide their clients with pet food and supplies. We wanted to make sure people in need had a one-stop shop for food for their whole family. Additionally, even with our budget being cut due to COVID, we expanded our targeted free S/N program for Aurora residents. We have a very large Latino population, so we make sure our marketing pieces are in English and Spanish; we also have bilingual staff members who can assist citizens who are Spanish-speaking. Once things open up again, we are planning to provide more services, such as free microchip clinics, in the underserved areas of the city directly, instead of only offering them at the shelter.
The Association: What’s one thing you’ve done to stay healthy and resilient this past year?
Anna Payton: I started running. I would definitely not classify myself as a runner, but there were moments when I just needed get out of the house and move. It definitely helped physically and mentally!
The Association: Looking back at 2020, what’s one thing you started doing, either personally or professionally, that you will carry over to 2021 and beyond? What’s one thing you wouldn’t miss doing?
Anna Payton: I started my own weekly holiday, Wine Down Wednesday. After I get my kids to bed, I take a hot bath and have a glass of wine. It’s amazing how making time for yourself in the middle of the week can make such a difference. I will not miss doing the holidays with my extended family via Zoom. Looking forward to an in-person Thanksgiving feast and Christmas with everyone!
What’s the last movie you saw?
Anna Payton: Last weekend I went to the movie theatre with my kids for the first time in over a year and saw Raya and the Last Dragon.
The Association: What’s your favorite one-sentence leadership tip?
Anna Payton: Be authentic in who you are, be humble, and invest in those around you; people will want to follow you.