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Chief Operating Officer

Posted: February 1, 2024 Expired: November 27, 2023
Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo
Bachelor Degree

Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo

Chief Operating Officer

Mission: ​Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo is dedicated to acquainting a diverse public to the delicate balance that exists between living things and their environment.

The Chief Operating Officer (COO) is a Zoo-wide strategic, team-oriented leader, big-picture thinker, and internal operations executor. With a holistic view of the organization and an eye on the overall Zoo experience, the COO will be responsible for creating a best-in-class institution and executing on the Zoo’s mission. The COO reports to the Zoo Director and leads and oversees the teams in these mission-critical areas and functions of the zoo:  

  • Finance

  • Education and Conservation

  • Guest Experience 

  • Animal Care

  • Facilities and Construction 

  • Human Resources

Executive Leadership, Management, and Strategic Oversight

The COO will provide executive leadership for all on-site operations and will directly manage the physical plant and facilities. The COO will work with their team to lead the experiential, attendance, and revenue goals of the Zoo while building a cohesive, collaborative culture across the organization. With a strong focus on strategically managing monthly budgets and associated reports, the COO will optimize and grow attendance and membership goals, actively manage revenue & expense plans across all Zoo teams, and maximize opportunities to advance the financial sustainability of the Zoo. Overall, the COO will develop streamlined and forward-thinking operations and build a team-based approach that leverages the individual strength and value each staff member brings.

This position will act as a thought partner to the Zoo Director, providing executive oversight to internal-facing responsibilities to balance the Zoo Director’s external-facing responsibilities.  In all aspects of this role, the COO must have the vision and leadership capacity to consistently implement strategies and measure and track performance in support of the Zoo’s strategic goals.

Candidate Strengths, Skills, and Qualities

Successful candidates for the COO role will show a commitment to the Zoo’s mission and a clear management & leadership philosophy that prioritizes cohesive team dynamics and building a collaborative and positive culture across departments. Candidates should have a strong familiarity across the varied functions of running a Zoo, including delivering excellent animal wellbeing, guest experience, and conservation education, as well as managing the upkeep and construction of physical facilities and infrastructure. A demonstrated track record of managing complex projectsbudgets and running efficient operations is essential. 

The COO must have a clear and direct leadership communication style, work seamlessly in concert with the Zoo Director, and delegate responsibilities to advance the strategic vision. Candidates should have proven skills as a senior manager, with the ability to mentor, inspire, and develop staff to their full potential. Excellent relationship-building skills, prioritizing collaboration and team-oriented goal-setting, are also critical for this position. 

The COO must bring innovative thinking to implement seamless experiences with high standards and quality, acute business acumen, and the ability to drive organizational growth. Candidates must be able to navigate ambiguity and complexity while progressing and completing projects. Strong decision-making record related to financial, staff, policy, and other operational segments that impact the success of the organization is essential.

Candidates should have a Bachelor’s degree or higher and a minimum of five years of demonstrated leadership experience in an operations capacity. 

In addition to the qualities and skills listed above, candidates must be able to demonstrate the ability to successfully take on the responsibilities listed here and others that typically encompass a Chief Operating Officer role. 

●      Operations Oversight: Oversee all on-site operations including guest services & membership, events, animal care, education, retail, horticulture, facilities & maintenance, finance, risk management, safety and security. Integrate operations to seamlessly deliver gold-standard animal wellbeing, exceptional guest experience, and impactful conservation and education goals.

●      Business Management: Oversee the Zoo’s finances, including its operating, departmental, and capital budgets and management of the Zoo’s endowment fund to ensure fiscal integrity and accountability. Negotiate, review and approve all vendor relationships and contracts. Drive membership and attendance goals using data and innovation to grow revenue and engagement opportunities.

●      Team Development: Empower leaders to manage their respective functions effectively, delegating responsibilities and decision-making when appropriate and necessary. Builds and develops positive culture internally across all Zoo departments. 

●      Capital Project Management: Manage and oversee contracted construction and renovation projects within the Zoo, including direct involvement in costing, scheduling, purchasing, and contractor performance, budget, and timelines. Manage proactive plans to address physical facility maintenance and construction.

●      Standards & Risk Management: Ensure compliance with regulatory requirements including national, state, and local ordinances, laws, standards for accreditation, licensure, and permits, including AZA, OSHA, and FDA. 

●      Safety Management: Develop, implement, and expand upon all staff and visitor safety programs including emergency policies and procedures, drills, training, communicating, hazards identification, and OSHA compliance.

●      Performance Management: Establish and develop hiring, performance management, and professional development practices that optimize staff effectiveness, growth, and capacity. 

●      Strategic Leadership: Model exemplary, inclusive leadership across functions, actively building a cohesive and collaborative culture. Serve as a thought partner to the Zoo Director. 

About the Zoo

As Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo fulfills its mission to educate the public about the richness of biodiversity and the critical need for species survival, it must strive on an organizational level to embrace the wondrous diversity of the human race in order to continue to thrive.

The Zoo is located in Bridgeport, Connecticut and is the only Association of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited zoo in the state of Connecticut. The Zoo includes one of the few carousels in the state. The Zoo has around 500 animals, from over 100 species, and welcomes about 280,000 visitors a year.

How to Apply

Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo has retained Canopy Strategic Partners to manage this search. To be considered for this excellent opportunity, please forward a single PDF document that includes your detailed resume and a cover letter to Corina Medina-Tapia at Questions about the role can be directed to David Walsh at

Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo
Bridgeport, CT

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