Even if he'd secretly been hoping for a pony on his birthday, Mayor Tom Leppert was all smiles this morning at the Dallas Zoo, where the formalities of a press conference quickly gave way to a birthday cake, singing and fun times feeding exotic birds and giraffes.
The morning's occasion was ostensibly a promotional word for the "Graffes, Monkeys and Lepperts" fundraiser on June 26 for the benefit of Education is Freedom, which pairs high schoolers from DISD's poorest schools with advisers to help them reach college.
The charcoal-suited birthday boy -- as usual, Leppert was the best-dressed guy at the zoo -- took his chance to offer congratulations to the college-bound kids and, putting on his best Jerry Lewis, outlined all the good perks awaiting donors at the Giants of the Savanna exhibit. A "herd pass" for a group of four, Leppert said, was just $20.
EIF president Marcia Page cut in after the mayor's remarks to surprise him with a cake and a round of "Happy Birthday." (Yes, there's video after the jump.)
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David Biegler, chairman of the organization's board, called Leppert "EIF's greatest cheerleader," adding that the mayor donates the majority of his $60,000 salary to pay for scholarships. The organization served 2,200 seniors last year, Biegler said, and a handful of college-bound DISD graduates took the mic to thank their mentors and advisors in the program.
Then it was time for Leppert, joined by a few of the kids, to feed leaves to the animals. While zookeepers tried to coax the skittish giraffes closer to the big media happening, Leppert flexed his animal knowledge, asking after one giraffe by name and laying down facts about animals at the zoo. The exhibit is really unique, Leppert said, because the elephants are so old while the lions around them are all under two years old.
He got to meet a penguin named Donny and a pint-sized American alligator, then feed an African crowned crane named Ben, but it sounded like maybe the mayor's most favorite part was getting to watch the ostrich chase the impalas around in the field.
Then he left for City Hall for another busy day running the big city, and even had to leave before eating his cake.