Chief Executive Officer
EVP & Chief Operating Officer
Executive Director of CMA Research Institute
Chief Marketing & Revenue Officer
Chief Development Officer
Chief Business Officer
VP Operations & Zoological Care
Dawn De Santis
VP of Guest Operations & Human Resources
VP of Education
VP Conservation Marketing
David Yates - Executive Director & CEO
David Yates graduated from the University of Nebraska-Omaha in 1985 with a B.S.B.A., and immediately went to work for Arthur Young & Company, a then Big-Eight accounting firm (now Ernst & Young). In 1987, Yates was hired by a private group of companies located in the Tampa, Florida area. In 1989, this group purchased the rights to the Ironman Triathlon events and brand. After becoming the Executive VP in 1989, Yates moved to CEO in 1992. During his tenure, the Ironman brand was established as a legitimate multi-million dollar international sports brand, with TV packages on NBC and ESPN, and he won multiple national Emmy Awards for his work with NBC.
Yates joined the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in February 2006 as its Director and CEO. He assumed this position at a time when CMA was on the verge of insolvency, and created a vision, business model and an award-winning management team that has successfully resurrected the CMA into a thriving global organization. When Winter the dolphin came to CMA, Yates had the foresight to see her story of survival as an inspiration to others. He initiated a marketing and media plan that promoted the story worldwide and attracted the attention of animal lovers and individuals with life challenges who would learn from her story. This story has been told in nearly all major and secondary national and international media outlets, including NBC’s Today Show, Good Morning America, Oprah, BBC, CNN and thousands of others. Winter’s story has also been featured in magazines such as People, Reader’s Digest, Time and Women’s World. Yates has helped produce three books about her, and is a Co-Producer of Dolphin Tale and Executive Producer of Dolphin Tale 2. He and his wife Joan have four grown children.
Frank Dame - EVP & Chief Operating Officer
Frank has been involved with CMA and its growth since 2006. A former Chairman of the Board, he was named to his current executive staff position in October of 2008. Frank holds a B.S. degree in Finance with a minor in Marketing from the University of Central Florida. He has more than 34 years of experience in executive management prior to joining CMA. Previous positions include president of GTE Leasing Corporation, VP/GM of Verizon Credit Corporation and VP of Sales and Marketing for Progress Telecom, a wholesale broadband and wireless infrastructure company. He is a former Chairman of the Clearwater Jolley Trolley, and held positions as Chairman of the Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce, board member of the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce, board member of the Clearwater Downtown Partnership and served eight years on the Clearwater Community Development Board.
Buddy Powell - Executive Director of CMA Research Institute
For more than 40 years, Dr. James “Buddy” Powell has worked to conserve manatees and other endangered species around the world and his efforts have resulted in coastal protected areas in Florida, West Africa, Central America and Cuba. His approach integrates science and education to unlock solutions to conservation issues.
A native Floridian, in the 1970s, Buddy worked for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as a biologist and manatee specialist. In 1986, he moved to West Africa where he studied manatees and forest elephants for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and was pivotal in establishing several coastal protected areas. He moved to Belize in the 1990s to manage WCS’s Glover’s Reef Marine Research Station. Upon his return to Florida, Buddy administered the state’s research program on marine mammals and sea turtles for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. In 2001, he became a Vice President at Wildlife Trust where he oversaw the Aquatic and National Divisions.
In 2008, Dr. Powell co-founded Sea to Shore Alliance. The organization was created to improve the health and productivity of coastal environments for the endangered species and human livelihoods that depend on them through research, education and conservation. Buddy joined CMA as Executive Director of the CMA Research Institute in 2018 when Sea to Shore Alliance merged with Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
Dr. Powell received his BSc. in Wildlife Biology from the University of Florida, his Masters in Marine Affairs from the University of Washington, and his PhD in Zoology from the University of Cambridge in England. He was the recipient of the prestigious Pew Award in Marine Conservation in 2000, has been featured on “Champions of the Wild” and National Geographic’s “Wild Chronicles” documentaries, and has been honored with multiple awards and certificates. Dr. Powell has authored two books, numerous scientific publications and popular articles.
Bill Potts - Chief Marketing & Revenue Officer
Bill grew up in Houston and graduated from the University of Texas with a BBA. He received his MBA from Tulane University and started his career at Exxon Co. USA. He then went to Ralston Purina, working in their Cereal division in Brand Management. He was then VP of FosterGrant, the eyewear company, re-launching the “Who’s That Behind Those FosterGrants?” ad campaign, including working with Cindy Crawford. He worked in the then start-up, MIRUS, a business intelligence software company focused on reducing food and labor costs for chain restaurants, as VP of Sales and Marketing. Just prior to working at CMA, Bill was the VP of Global Licensing and Partner Services for Ironman Triathlon, where he was part of the team that grew the company from 8 employees in 2003 to its sale as a major global brand to the Dalian Wanda Group in 2015. He is on the Board of Directors of the Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce. Bill is an Ironman athlete and passionate runner, who loves running races with his son. He wrote a kids book “Ruby and Lizzie, The Raging River Adventure” for his twin girls. Bill and his wife own a Massage Envy.
Kelly Jordan - Chief Development Officer
Kelly Jordan joined Clearwater Marine Aquarium in February 2016 as the Chief Development Officer. In this position, Kelly provides leadership, direction and coordination of fundraising strategies and activities that enable CMA to make critical investments to ensure our institution remains a leader in marine life education, research, rescue, rehabilitation, and release. This includes overseeing CMA’s $15 million dollar capital campaign for its $71 million dollar expansion that will allow us to rescue and release more marine life, create an enhanced living habitat for our resident non-releasable animals, and provide more space for our guests.
Kelly has over 14 years of professional Business Development experience. A graduate of Tampa’s own University of South Florida, Kelly holds a degree in International Business. She also studied Business and Museum Studies at King’s College in London, England and Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. Prior to moving back to Florida, Kelly served as the Development Officer in Washington D.C. at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum for over 8 years. At the Holocaust Museum she was part of a hugely successful $200 million dollar comprehensive campaign. Kelly also worked with the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery and the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.
Darryl Connors - Chief Business Officer
Darryl Connors moved to St. Petersburg, Florida, as a teenager. He then was accepted into the Air Force School of Medicine for a pharmaceutical career. During that time, he was on the Military Powerlifting Team. After five and a half years, he entered the civilian world working in a hospital pharmacy.
His career then took him into manufacturing at the Tier II level automobile industry, which in turn led him to the RV industry. Working his way up the corporate ladder, he was an owner of his first business at the young age of 29. He has since owned and operated as the President and CEO of all of his businesses. His last RV company was sold in 2018.
Darryl’s commitment to manufacturing did not stop at ownership. He served on several O.E.M. manufacturing and fleet sub-committees/boards that reported and recommended manufacturing/product changes to the main board of each O.E.M including Fiat Chrysler, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Nissan and Mercedes-Benz. Darryl was also a participant on the RVIA, CVMA and several other boards during his successful career.
The partnerships he has created led him to licensing deals with NASCAR, Collegiate Licensing Corporation and Orange County Choppers. He currently has several patents on automotive and RV designs.
In his spare time, Darryl spends time with his family and loves all sports, especially golf and tennis, and has been a member of the Drug-Free Powerlifting Team for 30 years.
Mike Hurst - VP Operations & Zoological Care
In 1984, Mike started a career with SeaWorld Orlando. Starting in the engineering department as a full-time helper, he worked in all aspects of engineering and polished his skill sets taught to him by his dad. In a few months Mike was offered a third shift job as a water quality technician. Mike accepted this position and learned the new trade of life support operations for marine life environments. Mike continued his education through this time and became a state certified water treatment operator, certified diver and a private pilot. During his 18-year career at SeaWorld, he continued to gain responsibility and helped to oversee all maintenance diving operations, new construction projects as well as all daily operations within the Water Quality Department.
After 18 years with SeaWorld, Mike was offered a position on a groundbreaking opportunity to build Georgia Aquarium, the world’s largest aquarium in Atlanta. Mike was the fourth employee to be hired by the Aquarium and was initially responsible for assisting with the design and overseeing the construction project. This was a 240-million-dollar project that was built in 24 months. In 2009, Mike left Georgia Aquarium as the VP of Engineering and Operations to start his own consulting firm.
While Mike was running his consulting firm, Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) reached out to Mike for assistance in resolving water quality issues with their dolphin habitat. In 2010, CMA offered Mike a position as the Director of Animal Care. Today, as VP of Operations & Zoological Care, Mike is responsible for overseeing Dive Operations, Water Quality, Marine Vessel Operations, Facility Operations and Animal Care including Rescue Operations. He is also overseeing all construction and expansion projects for CMA.
Dawn De Santis - VP of Guest Operations & Human Resources
Dawn De Santis has more than 25 years of guest operations and human resources experience in the attractions and hospitality industries. Before joining the team at Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Dawn spent 9 years with Brunswick, a family entertainment center, 10 years with Carnival Airlines, Pan Am and Continental, and another three years running her own successful restaurant. A New York native, Dawn fell in love with the Clearwater area and decided to move down with her family in 2004. She got her first taste of Clearwater Marine Aquarium after coming across a sea turtle nest on the beach with a sign that said it was protected by CMA. Fascinated, as there were no sea turtles in the Bronx, Dawn signed on as a volunteer for the nesting team and never looked back.
In 2006, Dawn accepted a position as the aquarium’s Volunteer Coordinator, but continued volunteering on the Nesting and Rescue Teams for over 10 years. As a member of the Rescue Team, Dawn was involved with Winter and Hope’s rescue and rehabilitation. Additionally, Dawn served as a Talent Coordinator for both Dolphin Tale films.
During her 13-year tenure with Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Dawn has taken on many roles including Volunteer and Intern Coordinator, Director of HR, Assistant VP of Guest Relations and HR, and her current position as Vice President of Guest Operations & Human Resources. Dawn lives near the beach where she saw her first sea turtle nest with her husband, son and dog.
Billy Campisciano - VP Conservation Marketing, Development & Concessions
Billy grew up with a passion for the environment; hiking, surfing and diving in California. He started his professional career in Los Angeles as a graduate of the prestigious Art Center College of Design. While his design talent was geared towards entertainment, working with Disney and other studios, he was soon pulled into the product and fashion design industry, designing and managing major entertainment licenses. Billy earned notoriety for his design work with celebrities in sports and music industries. He was recognized for his bold graphic design and innovating collaborations and cross licenses between sports and entertainment properties like Warner Bros. and NBA. While in California, in his spare time, Billy always remained involved with environmental and conservation causes. Volunteering at Marineland of the Pacific and working with Los Angeles Zoo in Animal Care, Education and Marketing as well as Sierra Club California, the environment is his true love.
In 1991 Billy was recruited By Vanity Fair Corp. to head up Merchandising / Design in their new License division in Florida. He jumped at the opportunity to work for the world’s largest apparel corporation and the adventure of exploring Florida’s amazing environment, a childhood dream. Billy spent the next ten years heading up merchandising, marketing and licensing projects with every major sports and entertainment license as well as VF’s many brands. In 2001 Billy went on to accept a position with David & Goliath Inc. as Executive Vice President heading up Operations & Creative Development, which included Marketing, IP Licensing, Entertainment, Publishing, and International Retail Franchising. Billy continued to work in the environmental arena on the side working with the Busch Conservation fund, Nature Conservancy, starting a Florida based conservation organization with his daughters, and began his relationship with Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
In 2012 Billy began developing and merchandising product for CMA and the Dolphin Tale 2 release as a side project. This relationship developed into an opportunity to join the CMA leadership team and Billy was finally able to merge his passion for the environment and all his career experience in one place. Since 2016 Billy has been VP of Brand Merchandising and most recently became VP of Conservation Marketing.
Lisa Oliver - VP of Education
Lisa Oliver joined the Clearwater Marine Aquarium team in June 2012, and serves as the Vice President of Education. She oversees the development and facilitation of all educational programming, summer and seasonal camps, eco-boat tours, coastal clean-ups, and the wild dolphin dorsal fin identification program. She comes from a background of various experiences in the biological field, including environmental consulting, sea turtle nesting, wildlife rehabilitation, and traditional education. As a native to Florida, Lisa enjoys spreading her passion for environmental conservation and awareness to help foster the next generation of environmental stewards. Lisa also enjoys, traveling, spending time on the water, reading, and snuggling with her fur babies. Lisa holds both a M.S. degree in Biological Sciences with an emphasis in Marine Biology, and a B.S. degree in Biological Sciences from Florida Atlantic University.
Thank you to our sponsors