Amid scandal, Columbus Zoo picks new CEO
Texas State Aquarium's longtime leader, Tom Schmid, will become the next president and CEO of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
Why it matters: Schmid starts Dec. 6 and will be responsible for restoring public trust in the zoo following recent scandals.
- The zoo could soon lose accreditation with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, a distinction it has had since 1980, according to a WCMH story.
- Tom Stalf, Schmid's predecessor, resigned in March amid allegations that he used zoo assets personally, including credit cards, vehicles, homes and tickets to events.
- At least $631,000 in losses were attributed to Stalf and three other former zoo officials, according to a forensic audit.
- A recent documentary also uncovered longtime zoo director Jack Hanna's involvement in the exotic big cat trade.
Flashback: Schmid, 58, has led Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi, Texas, since 1999. Before that, he led Nauticus, a maritime science center in Norfolk, Virginia, and started his career at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida.
- Under Schmid's leadership, the aquarium doubled in size with a $58 million, 71,000-square-foot expansion in 2017, and a new, massive wildlife rescue center is now under construction.
What's next: Schmid's first priority will be ensuring the staff "once again has confidence in the leadership of the zoo," he tells Axios.
- "A lot of my focus will be regaining trust in the community, both in central Ohio and the zoo community at large," he said.
- Eventually, the park's North America region will likely be targeted for upgrades because of outdated habitats.
- Until December, esteemed Columbus Zoo director emeritus Jerry Borin, who came out of retirement following Stalf's resignation, will continue to lead the zoo.
The big picture: Schmid said he was hooked by the scale of operations — the 622-acre zoo itself, plus a water park, golf course and a nearly 10,000-acre conservation park, The Wilds, east of Columbus.
What they're saying: Keith Shumate, chair of the zoo's board of directors, told board members Schmid is the right person to "help move the zoo forward."
- Schmid's base salary will be $425,000, Shumate confirmed.
Meanwhile, a state investigation into former zoo leadership, conducted by the Ohio Attorney General's Charitable Law Section, is ongoing, as well as a state audit.
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