The board members of Columbus Zoo and Aquarium hope that their next CEO and President will bring a high level of integrity, experience in running a complex organization and a commitment to diversity, they said this week.
The zoo plans to hire a search company to find a new leader. According to board members, this process should be completed by August or September.
Jerry Borin, who had been the zoo’s top manager from 1992 to 2008, retired this spring to temporarily run the zoo after Tom Stalf stepped down.
Stalf and CFO Greg Bell resigned in late March after a dispatch investigation was conducted into personal use of zoo assets, including apartments and entertainment tickets.
What the board is looking for in the zoo’s next leader
At a zoo board meeting on Wednesday, some members stressed that the zoo’s next head doesn’t necessarily have to be from another zoo.
“You must be a leader with high integrity and someone to lead a complex organization. … We can teach them about zoo animals; We cannot teach them integrity, ethics and good business conduct, ”said board member Rustin Moore.
The companies interviewed so far to lead the search told the zoo’s search committee that the CEO position is about experience, said Brian Moore, a member of the search committee.
“Maybe we want to look at a seasoned leader, someone who comes after could not only be (a) zoo but also Disney or cruises,” said Brian Moore.
The zoo’s board members also spoke of the need for a diverse pool of candidates and candidates who advocate diversity and inclusion.
“We need a diverse pool of candidates … If we are to talk about diversity, equity and inclusion as something we want to prioritize, we have to start at the top of this position as CEO,” said Rustin Moore.
“The chances of finding a colored person … especially in the zoo world are slim,” said Lark Mallory, member of the search committee. “We’re looking at a much broader spectrum. We are interested in candidates who have run complex businesses, regardless of whether they are animals or not. We believe, and the search companies have said, that if we open it up like that, we have a much better chance of getting a wider range of candidates. ”
Decision on the zoo’s next CEO is expected in August or September
The search committee of the zoo’s board of directors has interviewed four search companies and plans to meet on Friday to review the companies further. As of Wednesday, the committee examined four companies: Heidrick & Struggles, BeecherHill, DHR International and Zoo Advisors. No additional information on the zoo’s final company selection was available until Friday afternoon.
It will then take the company up to a month or so to identify candidates and then provide the zoo’s search committee with a list of approximately six to ten candidates. The search committee will then interview these candidates for the next month or so before ultimately adding a final candidate to the board.
The search committee also hopes the final candidate will meet with some zoo staff and other community stakeholders, including Franklin County’s commissioner and Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther, Brian Moore said.
The process is expected to take 100 to 130 days and end from mid-August to mid-September.
Interim CEO Jerry Borin “a welcome face”
Meanwhile, Borin has done “incredible things for morale” at the zoo, said Carman Wirtz, senior vice president of human resources at the zoo. She pointed to a staff survey which unanimously found that Borin is a “welcome face” among the zoo staff.
“What he brings, that is what they want in the next CEO,” Wirtz told the board this week. “He’s very dedicated, he’s a person, and all you can say is that he takes care of you.”
A series of reviews and investigations continue as the zoo begins its search for its next leader. The Ohio Attorney General is investigating the zoo and the Ohio Auditor of State is conducting an audit of the nonprofit for the first time. The Ohio Ethics Commission director also said the panel is considering investigating Stalf and Bell.
Jerry Borin poses with Lorikeets at Columbus Zoo in 2008. Borin, who had previously been the zoo’s top executive from 1992 to 2008, retired early this spring to temporarily run the zoo after Tom Stalf stepped down as president and CEO.
Zoo strives to hire new leaders with experience and diversity