Shelli Herman and Associates Recruits New Leader for Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Park

January 30, 2024 – Los Angeles-based Shelli Herman and Associates has assisted in the recruitment of Sabarras George as director for the Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Park, a $230 million, 425-acre zoo expansion project that is scheduled to open to the public in 2027. He succeeds Jo-Elle Mogerman, who assumed the role of president and CEO of Philadelphia Zoo in October. “I believe that our staff, supporters and the community will really like Sabarras,” said Dwight Scott and Dana Brown, president and CEO, Saint Louis Zoo. “I’m confident that he will help grow our conservation efforts and successfully lead the development of WildCare Park that will open in 2027 with amazing guest experiences.”

Mr. George has over 25 years of executive leadership and operations experience. For nearly six years, he has worked at the Detroit Zoological Society (DZS). He most recently served as the vice president of operations and facilities and chief operating officer. Prior to that role, Mr. George was the deputy chief operating officer. In his time at DZS, he has overseen all internal operations at the Detroit Zoo and Belle Isle Nature Center, including multi-site facilities management, security, marketing, retail, grounds and construction on 125 acres.

“Sabarras has been instrumental to Detroit Zoological Society’s commitment to igniting positive change for animals and nature, and we are really going to miss him,” said Hayley Murphy, executive director and CEO of the Detroit Zoological Society. “I am so proud of Sabarras and all he has accomplished here, and I am sure he will be hugely successful in his new role. The Saint Louis Zoo is getting someone who possesses a strategic, forward-thinking mindset, unmatched leadership skills and an incredible working knowledge of the zoo industry.”

Before joining DZS, Mr. George worked for Sparrow Health System as the vice president of guest services & operations and as the executive director of strategic health & wellness before that. He also served as the executive director of Sparrow Michigan Athletic Club.

Related: Shelli Herman and Associates Recruits CEO for Fresno Chaffee Zoo

In his new position with the Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Park, Mr. George will direct and collaborate with external design and construction partners to complete the design and construction of the WildCare Park campus, delivering the project within the $230 million capital budget for its spring 2027 opening. “I am so excited for the opportunity to contribute my expertise and passion to an institution that shares my commitment to preserving and conserving the environment and the habitat of animals,” said Mr. George. “The Saint Louis Zoo is a world leader as a zoo and conservation organization. I can’t wait to be a part of the team that continues to find ways to improve and grow.”

Shelli Herman and Associates Recruits CEO for Omaha’s Zoo and Aquarium
Shelli Herman and Associates has assisted in the recruitment of Luis Padilla as the president and chief executive officer of Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. “Our challenge was to find someone who could build on the legacy of Dennis Pate,” said Mogens Bay, chair of the board of directors, Omaha Zoological Society. “We are confident that Dr. Padilla is that person. He was chosen after an extensive and thorough process by the search committee and is the next right leader for Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. Dr. Padilla is a mission-driven leader who values collaboration, innovation, staff development, resiliency, and wildlife conservation. His background as a veterinarian ensures that the highest quality of care for Omaha’s animals and their habitats will remain a top priority and commitment.”

Founded in 1910, the Saint Louis Zoo is home to over 16,000 animals, representing 500 species. It is recognized worldwide for its innovative approaches to animal care and management, wildlife conservation, research, and education. One of the few free zoos in the nation, the Saint Louis Zoo is the most-visited attraction in the region. Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the Saint Louis Zoo is part of an elite group of institutions that meet the highest standards in animal care as well as provide fun, safe and educational family experiences.

Proven Recruiters

Shelli Herman and Associates Inc. serves trailblazing clients across the corporate, nonprofit, and higher education sectors. The firm’s long roster of clients includes the Annenberg Foundation; the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation; BENlabs; The Capital Group Companies/American Funds Distributors; City Year, Los Angeles; the Fresno Chaffee Zoo; the Griffith Observatory Foundation; Jewish Family Service LA; Laguna College of Art and Design; Loyola Marymount University; Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium; P.S. ARTS; the Saint Louis Zoo; Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County; the University of California System; the Whitney Museum of American Art; and YWCA Greater Los Angeles.

Shelli Herman, who has more than 25 years of executive recruitment experience, has a strong record of leading searches and building upper management teams for a diverse clientele, including Fortune 500 companies. She has completed senior-level assignments in many industries, including consumer products, healthcare, high technology, and finance, as well as for nonprofit, conservation, and cultural organizations. Additionally, she brings an in-depth understanding of the unique cultural environment of academia that was gained while she held significant management positions at the University of Florida and Loyola Marymount University.

Related: Shelli Herman and Associates Recruits New Leader for the St. Louis Zoo

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Executive Editor; Lily Fauver, Senior Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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