Tom Stalf named president and CEO of Columbus Zoo

Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2013, 1:48 pm
Comment on this story | Print this story | Email this story

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium board has voted unanimously to appoint former Niabi Zoo director Tom Stalf as president and CEO of the Columbus Zoo and its other entities: Zoombezi Bay, Safari Golf Club and the Wilds conservation center.

Mr. Stalf joined the Columbus Zoo in May 2010 as senior vice president of operations, and a year later was promoted to chief operations officer. The board appointed him interim CEO when Dale Schmidt resigned in August 2012, according to a news release from the zoo.

"The board commissioned an assessment of the organization--where it is now and where we want to be in the future. It became very clear from the report, and comments from many leaders in our community, that Tom Stalf is the right person to lead the Zoo and its other properties," board chairman Phil Pikelny said.

"During his time as interim CEO, Tom demonstrated strong leadership and advanced the organizational goals and mission," Mr. Pikelny said. "He is directing the progress of Safari Africa, the largest project in the Zoo's history which opens in 2014, and is coordinating this summer's arrival of 25 animatronic dinosaurs to engage people of all ages in the prehistoric past and lessons for our planet's future.

"In 2012, the Wilds experienced record breaking attendance and Zoombezi Bay produced record revenue. Safari Golf Club was voted the number one public course in central Ohio. Tom has the experience and credentials as a successful zoo director, he embodies passion and vision, and he has our full support and endorsement."

Mr. Stalf has more than 20 years experience, starting as a zookeeper and advancing quickly through every aspect of zoo management – from animal care to exhibit design to financial management to strategic visioning. He became the youngest zoo director in the country when tapped to manage Niabi Zoo in Illinois in 1995 and guided that zoo to gain national accreditation for the first time.

Annually more than 2.4 million people visit the Columbus Zoo and its other entities, making it one of the most successful zoological institutions in the country and a significant economic engine in central Ohio.

"My life has been dedicated to inspiring people to care about wildlife and wild places but I know I can't do it by myself," Stalf said. "I walk through the Zoo and talk with our animal care experts, educators, conservationists, guest services representatives and others who I encounter. As often as possible I travel to the Wilds near Zanesville and immerse myself in the important science we conduct there. Whether I'm talking with team members from the Zoo, the Wilds, Zoombezi Bay or the golf pro at Safari Golf Club, our entire team is united by our shared goal of furthering our mission of connecting people with nature."

Mr. Stalf has traveled with Jack Hanna for education programs, zoo promotions and national television appearances for more than 15 years, and does regular speaking engagements and television appearances. He also speaks on behalf of state and federal legislation that affects wildlife.

He has traveled to several countries where the Zoo supports programs that help people help protect wildlife, including a program that helps to save mountain gorillas in Rwanda, Africa. Globally, The Columbus Zoo has more than 70 conservation projects in 30 countries that are supported by $1 million raised through public donations and fundraisers each year.

"Since coming to the Columbus Zoo, and while I served as interim CEO, I utilized the time to engage staff members and members of the community and I heard how passionate they are about our Zoo," Mr. Stalf said. "I share that passion and am enthused to have this tremendous responsibility and feel privileged to do what I love each and every day."

Stalf is a professional member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), has served as an AZA accreditation mentor and is currently a member of the Government Affairs committee. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Western Illinois University.


Local events heading

  (More History)