DHR Global Seeks Chief Zoological Officer for Woodland Park Zoo


October 3, 2022 – DHR Global has been enlisted to find a chief zoological officer (CZO) for the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. The assignment is being led by James Abruzzo, managing partner, global non-profit practice, and Michele Baird Counter, principal.

The chief zoological officer reports directly to the zoo’s president and CEO and serves many of the classical functions of the zoo director. In particular, this position directs overall zoological operations in four primary areas of responsibility: animal care (including animal management, health, welfare, and collection planning), facilities and maintenance (including facilities design, construction, and general maintenance), operations sustainability, and security.

This key leader will be expected to provide strategic leadership, operational coordination, and implementation plans to the executive leadership team and the board of directors to successfully support the zoo’s ambitious strategic plan, said DHR Global. The CZO drives innovation and measures performance in all these areas.

In addition, the CZO must participate in the outward-facing areas of zoo – participation in the stewardship of donors and prospective donors, representing the zoo and its grounds and operations to the press, local and regional authorities, and others, said the search firm . This position provides strategic direction and leadership to operationalize the zoo’s innovative strategic vision, capital expansion, and drive to become a world-class conservation organization.

Awareness of the organization and its core capabilities and vulnerabilities to drive the zoo’s mission through the support of comprehensive operational planning and implementation is vital to this role.

Key Requirements

The ideal candidate will have experience as the director of an accredited zoo or related organization, or senior management experience within a major zoo or aquarium, scientific, or cultural visitor-focused organization in the US, said DHR Global. He or she must have the experience and skills to provide leadership to the animal care and curatorial team and have the breadth and scope of management potential to operate collegially and cooperatively within a large corporate structure with complex strategies and aspirational goals.

Because the CZO will have oversight, planning, and operational responsibility over a set of large, complex capital projects, already funded and in the planning stages, the ideal candidate must also have a proven ability to manage large, complex capital projects. The ability to engage in value engineering and within the context of modern zoo practices, is essential. Hands-on knowledge of and comfort with change management is essential.

The CZO should possess a bachelor’s or master’s degree from an accredited college or university in management, engineering, architecture, science or administration, and/or a related field; 15 or more years of professional operational experience at a complex park-like facility; and eight or more years of direct supervisory and management experience of professional staff; and/or an equivalent combination of education and experience.

Related: DHR International Assists the Pittsburgh Zoo in Recruitment of New CEO

Founded in 1899, Woodland Park Zoo is a non-profit organization dedicated to saving animals and habitat. Last year, 1.3 million on-site visitors of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities engaged in memorable experiences with 300 species of animals and with each other. Its membership base is the largest of any cultural institution in the region.

A Leading Search Firm

Since 1989, DHR Global has been a leading, privately held provider of executive search solutions with more than 50 wholly-owned offices spanning the globe. DHR’s consultants specialize in all industries and functions, providing senior-level executive search, management assessment, and succession planning services tailored to the qualities and specifications of its client base.

Mr. Abruzzo has 40 years of experience as an executive search and management consultant to non-profit organizations, His clients span the non-profit spectrum — cultural organizations, zoos and aquariums, national health services, universities, social services, international relief organizations, and trade associations. Having completed over 500 senior executive searches, he is recognized for his work with non-profit boards on succession planning, strategy, and executive compensation. He is also responsible for recruiting new partners, developing intellectual capital, and representing DHR at non-profit industry forums.

Ms. Counter is a principal in DHR’s non-profit practice. She specializes in non-profit executive search, working with clients in the US and internationally. The assignments she works on include searches for non-profit president/chief executives, as well as senior leadership in finance and administration, fundraising, marketing, education, programs, and other areas. Ms. Counter has also assisted non-profits with a variety of consulting projects concerning strategy, governance, and non-profit compensation. She has worked with arts and cultural organizations, social service non-profits, international development NGOs, health-related organizations, foundations, zoos and aquariums, associations, and educational organizations including colleges and universities. Ms. Counter has specialized in non-profit executive search for over 10 years.

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Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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