The 'Texas Zoo" is a huge plus for Victoria and the surrounding communities. Not every city the size of Victoria has such a nice facility. Now the zoo has a new executive director.

The South Texas Zoological Society named Amanda Rocha the zoo's new executive director effective immediately, the organization announced Tuesday. Rocha replaces Andrea Blomberg, who resigned in late June for a position with the city of Victoria.

The new director, who first joined the zoo in February 2011 as program director, said she looks forward to the challenges her new role presents. "It's exciting and nerve-wracking all at the same time," she told the Victoria Advocate. "But I'm excited. I'm ready."

The position is a natural step for the Austwell-Tivoli native, who said she always harbored a passion for wildlife and habitat conservation. She said the zoo is the perfect place to educate children about the important issues. "Here, we're able to kind of hit people on the front line," she explained. "If they come to the zoo and are looking at ... the badger, who is from the prairie, which is disappearing now, it can make an impact. They can relate."

Rocha, 33, is working toward bachelor's degrees in biology and communications from Texas A&M University-Kingsville, and has previous experience as a bio-science tech with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She is also active with the Victoria Ballet Theatre, where she volunteers as a production stage manager.

Melissa Rivera, president of the South Texas Zoological Society board, said she was pleased to have Rocha leading the organization.

"She has done a stellar job at the zoo and has demonstrated that she has the skills, drive and expertise to be a great executive director," Rivera said in a Texas Zoo news release, noting Rocha's background in biology, work with children, education and both project and volunteer management. "Amanda has expertise with grants and working within a budget, and has a desire to operate our facility with a great deal of integrity."