July 20, 2020 – Fresno Chaffee Zoo in California has enlisted Los Angeles-based Shelli Herman and Associates to find its next chief executive officer. Leading the assignment is Shelli Herman, president and founder of the recruitment firm.
The opening comes at a time of evolution and promise for the zoo. The next CEO will be expected to guide the organization in its goal to become a world-class outfit. Under the direction of its future chief executive, Fresno Chaffee aims to grow as a leader in animal care, guest experience, workplace satisfaction, education, exhibit design and conservation.
“My firm is honored and excited to represent the board of directors to find their next chief executive officer,” said Ms. Herman. “Fresno Chaffee Zoo, a beloved community organization situated at the gateway to the Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Parks will be hiring an exceptional individual to lead the zoo at a time of evolution and promise. The CEO will provide the vision and strategy to lead an organization already on an upward trajectory.”
“The board will be looking for an experienced, results-oriented chief executive who will provide strategic leadership toward shaping the future direction of the zoo as a world-class destination and a leader in conservation and education,” she said. “As with all zoos in the modern era, the board is particularly interested in candidates with a proven track record in fundraising.” Like all non-profit organizations, private philanthropy will be even more vital in the post COVID-19 era.
A Dynamic Leader
The CEO must be a dynamic, forward thinking, collaborative leader who will build on past strength and be the central architect of the path forward. The CEO will work with the board and other management to develop and implement organization-wide policy decisions and strategic planning, and to represent the zoo’s mission and brand.
This executive will have broad oversight in accordance with organizational goals, assuring proper execution of all long-range and short-term plans affecting the zoo, and providing information and analysis to the board of directors, said Shelli Herman and Associates. The CEO is ultimately responsible for the successful operation of Fresno Chaffee Zoo and will ensure excellence in the quality of the visitor/customer experience as well a high standard of care for the entire collection. The CEO will actively demonstrate the zoo’s mission and vision of inspiring the wonder of our natural world, providing an engaging learning environment, and instilling a passion for conservation.
Reporting to the board, the CEO will be expected to lead the executive team and an organization with 240 employees, 140 of which are full-time. The CEO currently manages a deputy director/chief operating officer, the chief financial officer, the director of development, a project manager and an executive assistant. The CEO has additional support from a leadership team that includes the chief conservation and education officer, the chief marketing officer, the chief people officer, the chief veterinary officer, the director of facilities and grounds, and the general curator.
The Highest Standards
The CEO must possess and project the utmost integrity and highest standards of professional conduct, and must be an individual qualified by accomplishment and experience to exercise the leadership of a capable, collegial and motivated group of colleagues, said Shelli Herman and Associates. The organization wants an individual willing to make a meaningful professional commitment to zoo and to the Fresno community as an engaged and immersed citizen.
The ideal candidate will be an energetic, solutions focused and entrepreneurial leader with a minimum of 10 years of progressively responsible management proficiency, which will include executive level experience ideally in a zoo, aquarium, theme park, or in the tourism and hospitality industry, said the search firm. A track record of success in non-profit fundraising would also be a distinguishing trait. Management expertise gained in an organization known for providing an exemplary guest experience would be of interest. An appreciation for and demonstrated understanding of the nuances of profitable, commercial recreation facility operation is also fundamental to achievement in this position.
Shelli Herman and Associates Fills Critical Role for the San Diego Zoo
Shelli Herman and Associates has placed David Wu as chief development and membership officer of San Diego Zoo Global and president of the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global. Shelli Herman, president of the recruitment firm, led the assignment along with her associate, Krista Haley. “David was the absolutely right candidate for the job because of his vast experience in advancement at both a large R1 university and at a world-class zoological enterprise,” said Ms. Herman.
The zoo’s next leader should share in and display a commitment to the mission of inspiring wonder of our natural world, providing an engaging learning environment, and creating a passion for conservation, said the search firm. Actions and decision-making will demonstrate cultural sensitivity, dedication, compassion and authenticity. This conservation champion will be committed to using the zoo platform and community trust to advocate for all aspects of protecting our world, including fostering respect for Mother Nature and the environment, as well as fighting climate change.
With roots dating back to 1907, what would become Fresno Chaffee Zoo opened as the Roeding Park Zoo in 1929. The 39-acre zoo is home to 1,123 animals representing 220 distinct species. The Fresno Chaffee Zoo has been privately managed since 2006, when Fresno’s Chaffee Zoo Corp. took over from the City of Fresno. Overall, the zoo’s annual operating budget has been increasing each year, while simultaneously building financial reserves in excess of $10 million. The 2019 budget was $16.9 million and 2020 is $17.7 million. The zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and is a member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Shelli Herman and Associates has a long roster of clients, including Otis College of Art and Design, Catalina Island Conservancy, the Annenberg Foundation, Pacific Northwest College of Art, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and University of California, Los Angeles.
Ms. Herman, who has 20 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 non-profit and cultural organizations.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media