Birmingham Zoo
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Birmingham Zoo President & Chief Executive Officer

Position Profile

Birmingham Zoo Background

Building upon its 63-year history, the Birmingham Zoo (BZI) welcomes nearly 650,000 guests to its 122acre campus each year to experience a collection of approximately 950 animals from 230 species. The Zoo has evolved considerably since its founding in the 1950s – it is now an economic driver of the City and region, one of Alabama’s largest attractions, a major contributor to zoo-based conservation efforts, and a place where families and children can connect with the natural world.

  • In 1999, the Zoo made the shift from a City-run zoo to privately-managed nonprofit. Since then, the Zoo generated great community support through multiple capital campaigns, which helped build the following successful projects:
  • 2005 – Junior League of Birmingham/Hugh Kaul Children’s Zoo: to coincide with the Zoo’s 50th anniversary celebration, a $15 million anchor exhibit devoted to urban, rural and wild animals and environs of Alabama.
  • 2007 – Sea Lion Splash show: an interactive guest experience designed to increase public awareness of conservation of marine mammals. • 2011 – Trails of Africa: an exhibit that contributed to the Zoo’s designation as a national leader in the care and conservation of threatened elephants; the Birmingham Zoo became the first accredited facility in the nation to successfully recreate an all-male African elephant herd as seen naturally in the wild.
  • 2017 – A new event and education yard just beyond the front entrance: part of a three-phase capital construction project – the next two phases (both scheduled for completion at the end of 2018) include a brand new front entrance and then an Asian Passage exhibit with Malayan tigers, orangutans, red pandas, and komodo dragons.

The Birmingham Zoo has become a world leader in conservation research and an ambassador for the preservation of wild animals and their natural environments. One of the most respected conservation programs at the Zoo is its Passion into Conservation Action (PICA) program, which allows Zoo employees to submit conservation research projects aligned with the Zoo’s conservation initiatives. Since 2013, 26 staff members have been awarded PICA grants.

In 2017, the Birmingham Zoo had an operating budget of approximately $12.2 million with over 70% from earned revenue. The Zoo has 17,300 household members. BZI is led by a talented and committed staff of more than 130 full-time employees and 60 part-time/seasonal employees. In 2016, 31,564 hours were donated to the Zoo by adult volunteers and 9,860 hours were logged by teen volunteers.
Learn more about the Birmingham Zoo – its mission, leadership and history – by visiting

President & Chief Executive Officer

Position Summary

Subject to the governing policies and standards established by the BZI Board of Directors, the President & CEO has overall responsibility for the leadership, development and successful execution of the institution’s mission, plans, goals and budgets.
S/he serves as the primary liaison with the institution’s various partners including the City of Birmingham and surrounding cities, BZI Board of Directors, BZI staff, Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the general public.
S/he represents BZI to the business community, government officials, philanthropic leadership, BZI members and the general public as the Zoo’s primary spokesperson.
As an AZA-accredited institution, the President & CEO is expected to meet or exceed all AZA Accreditation Standards, and to actively support and participate in AZA activities and programs as appropriate.
Reporting Relationships:

  • Reports to BZI Board of Directors.
  • Manages the senior management team, which includes the following positions: Chief Financial Officer; Senior Vice President; Vice President, Development; Vice President, Living Collections; Vice President, Sales & Marketing; Vice President, Education; Director, Animal Health; and Manager, Human Resources.

Key Responsibilities

Strategic Planning & Strategic Implementation

The success of BZI has been driven by insightful programs, policies and practices designed to meet the contemporary challenges of animal survival/conservation and collection sustainability, along with the creation of an inviting environment for guests. BZI has been a leader in zoo-based conservation. The future success of the Zoo depends on maintaining this powerful strategic combination of conservation and public enjoyment.

BZI recently completed a Zoo-wide strategic planning process to determine short- and long-term goals. The mission and vision of the Zoo have been revisited and updated in response to many discussions about its future direction.

  • The next President & CEO will work collaboratively with volunteer leadership, staff and external stakeholders to lead the implementation of this visionary strategic plan that addresses contemporary challenges in the broader zoo community while preparing for BZI’s future needs. S/he will be responsible for updating the current strategic plan as necessary and leading future strategic planning processes.
  • S/he must be able to articulate an aspirational vision and the long-term strategic plan for the Zoo in a way that energizes all constituencies and ensures its continued leadership in plant and animal conservation and the guest experience.

Financial Leadership & Stewardship of BZI Resources

BZI has enjoyed exceptional community support with revenue from membership, fundraising and earned revenue.

  • Despite this record of success, the next President & CEO must be mindful of the circumstances that pressure the budget, including remaining competitive with salaries, increasing benefit costs, ongoing facility and property maintenance, collection care and sustainability.
  • The next President & CEO will be expected to maintain and, where possible, grow existing revenue streams as well as identify new sources of financial support.
  • S/he will also be expected to oversee the Zoo’s development of a viable financial plan that ensures all resources are carefully monitored and fully leveraged through fiscally prudent leadership.

Principal External Spokesperson & Active Fundraiser

The Zoo has a strong relationship with state and local leadership and the broader community. The Zoo currently enjoys significant levels of public and private support and a high degree of respect within its professional association communities.

  • The President & CEO is the principal external spokesperson, representing BZI at the local, state, national and international levels.
  • As principal external spokesperson, the President & CEO interacts with other Zoo leaders, works closely with the BZI Board of Directors, partners with government authorities and business leaders and addresses a variety of public forums. S/he will also maintain and build collaborative academic relationships with the local and state universities.
  • The next President & CEO will maintain a strong and active public presence with all stakeholders and will ensure their ongoing support.
  • S/he will need to be persuasive in representing to a variety of constituents the myriad ways the Zoo contributes to the local economy and larger issues of animal welfare and collection sustainability.

Provide Inspiring Leadership to Zoo Staff and the Leadership Team

BZI employees are committed to the vision of the Zoo and demonstrate the highest standards of professionalism on a daily basis. The staff continually seek ways to improve the care of the collections and enhance the guest experience while ensuring the highest levels of safety for guests, staff and animals.

  • The next President & CEO will work to promote ongoing professional development for front-line and senior staff and ensure an integrated, highly collaborative staff dynamic.
  • The President & CEO will be expected to promote a culture of clear, consistent and open communication with all staff.
  • S/he will set the standard for mutual respect and for meeting the highest professional standards.

Board-Related Duties & Responsibilities

The BZI Board of Directors is a group of highly-respected, passionate community leaders who serve as strategic advisors to and supporters of the President & CEO.

  • The next President & CEO will present the strategic plan, annual operating budgets and periodic financial reports to the Board as appropriate.
  • S/he will ensure the Board stays fully informed about the Zoo and its activities so that they may provide appropriate guidance and actively advocate for the Zoo in the community.

Ideal Candidate Profile

For this pivotal role, BZI seeks a leader and spokesperson who passionately embraces the Zoo’s mission and embodies its core values. To move the Zoo forward, experience in the zoo or conservation field is strongly desired. Leadership experience in a high-quality cultural organization serving guests, especially families, is an asset.

The President & CEO will be a visible member of the local and zoological community and, as such, will possess the maturity, high ethical standards and charisma that project trust, integrity and confidence. The position requires a goal-oriented individual who has high energy. The ideal candidate will be an experienced leader who acts with courage, is willing to take risks and is able to make tough decisions based on thoughtful consideration of issues. S/he must be a consensus-builder and have a positive outlook.

Professional Qualifications:

  • At least ten years of progressive managerial and administrative responsibility at a public or private zoo, aquarium or equivalent institution, AZA facility preferred.
  • A Bachelor’s degree from a four-year college or university is required; a Master’s degree or equivalent professional experience is preferred.
  • A broad-based knowledge of conservation and public educational programs along with an appreciation for the Zoo’s diverse collections.
  • The vision and strength of leadership to develop long-term, large-scale capital and strategic plans for an organization; experience managing a complex organizational and financial structure; and knowledge of capital project and construction management.
  • Demonstrated, exemplary leadership of staff and other stakeholders; experience working with a volunteer board of corporate and civic leaders.
  • Proven communication, leadership and relationship-building skills; demonstrated community outreach ability and experience with diverse populations; the proven ability to work with government entities and to act as an advocate for the institution among various stakeholders.
  • Ability to position the Zoo as a leading education, conservation and destination institution both locally and nationally; a broad understanding of the national and international issues facing the zoological profession; and the ability and stature to be respected by peers and participants in AZA and related professional associations.

To Apply

Schultz & Williams is managing the search for Birmingham Zoo. Qualified candidates should send their resume and cover letters to Resumes will be reviewed beginning February 5, 2018.