Chief Operating Officer, Detroit Zoological Society, Royal Oak, MI

  • 19 Apr 2024 7:14 PM
    Message # 13345829

    The Detroit Zoological Society is a nonprofit organization that operates the Detroit Zoo, located in Royal Oak, a suburb of Detroit, MI, and the Belle Isle Nature Center, located on a beautiful island in the Detroit River. The Detroit Zoo is situated on 125 acres with animal habitats and exhibits and is home to 2,000 animals representing more than 230 species. Major exhibits include the Polk Penguin, Arctic Ring of Life, Australian Outback Adventure, Great Apes of Harambee, National Amphibian Conservation Center, Holden Reptile Conservation Center and Butterfly Garden. The Belle Isle Nature Center, with a focus on Michigan wildlife, flora and fauna, is situated on six acres of forested wetlands and offers nature programs for families and community groups.

    The Detroit Zoological Society’s mission (DZS) is to “create meaningful connections between people, animals and the natural world so all can thrive.” The vision of the Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) is to be “a force for positive change in a world where animals and nature are valued, understood and protected by all people.” The DZS is a renowned leader in wildlife conservation, animal welfare, environmental sustainability, and humane education, and is accredited by both the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). The DZS employs 265 full-time and 30 part-time employees, and currently has more than 1,100 volunteers. The DZS welcomes more than 1.3 million visitors annually and has a membership of 52,000 households. For more information about the DZS, including financials and other details, visit their DZS website:


    The DZS is in search of a Chief Operating Officer (COO) who will be responsible for supervising all construction, facilities, capital projects, and campus planning aspects of the organization. The COO will work under the Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer (CEO) to ensure efficient and effective operation of the society. The role requires the COO to work in collaboration with the Board of Directors, the Executive Director/CEO, the Executive Leadership Team, and the Senior Leadership Team in fulfilling their responsibilities. The COO will supervise six direct reports in the areas of Facilities, Security, Construction Projects and Sustainability.

    The DZS is currently working on a Campus Master Plan that will guide the society's development and growth of physical facilities for the next decade or more. The plan aims to bring the mission, vision, and values of the DZS to life and create memorable experiences for all guests.

    The DZS has developed a unique green roadmap named the "Greenprint," which is an evolving plan that guides operations and helps refine and improve facilities and daily practices, develop new policies and programs, and improve green literacy and action in the community. You can learn more about the Greenprint here: Detroit Zoological Society Greenprint.

    This opportunity is perfect for those with construction oversight experience who strongly believe in collaboration with people and the natural environment.


    • ·         Establishes, implements, and communicates the strategic direction of the organization’s physical plant facilities and grounds division, with close coordination with the Chief Experience Officer.
    • ·         Collaborates with the Executive Leadership Team (ELT) to develop and meet organizational goals while supplying expertise and guidance on operations, projects, and systems.
    • ·         Collaborates with other divisions and departments to carry out the organization's goals and objectives.
    • ·         Identifies, recommends, and implements new processes, technologies, and systems to improve and streamline organizational processes and use of resources and materials.
    • ·         Ensures that departmental decisions and project plans such as those for staffing, development, organization, material efficiency, hardware acquisitions, and facilities are in line with the organization's business plan, its diversity, access, and inclusion goals, and its mission and vision.
    • ·         Establishes, communicates, and implements effective and consistent operations-related policies, practices, standards, and security measures.
    • ·         Reviews and approves cost-control reports, cost estimates, and staffing requirements for projects.
    • ·         Establishes and administers the department's budget. Supports financial planning, reporting, controls, and related systems for various areas of responsibility and ensures that these processes coordinate with the overall organization.
    • ·         Helps prioritize the management and use of funds to align with the organization's vision, mission, and strategic plan.
    • ·         Presents periodic performance reports and metrics to the CEO, Board of Directors, and other leadership.
    • ·         Maintains knowledge of emerging technologies and trends in operations management.
    • ·         Oversees the execution of internal projects and events, including the development, implementation, and execution of the Strategic and Annual Work Plans.
    • ·         Works collaboratively with ELT members to develop, implement, and communicate necessary institutional policies and procedures.
    • ·         Works with Park Operations and Experiences staff to ensure that the physical offerings of the organization meet the current and future needs of animals, guests, and employees.
    • ·         Ensures that the maintenance and upkeep of the parks, buildings, and amenities are sufficient to maintain operational excellence, aesthetics, ambiance, and cosmetic acceptance.
    • ·         Responsible for maintaining the properties of the DZS to all AZA and AAM accreditation standards, USDA Standards for animals, and any state and regional standards.


    • ·         Bachelor’s degree in a related field and/or at least 10 years of industry-related experience, including three years in construction project management. Master’s degree is preferred.
    • ·         Management experience as a COO or as an executive manager in a nonprofit organization preferred.
    • ·         Successful experience managing a complex organizational and financial structure.
    • ·         Supervisory and leadership skills.
    • ·         Verbal and written communication skills.
    • ·         Knowledge of zoo principles, procedures, and best practices.
    • ·         Organizational skills and attention to detail.
    • ·         Analytical and problem-solving skills.
    • ·         Experience and/or ability to work with a volunteer Board of Directors.
    • ·         Proficient with Microsoft Office Suite or related software.

    Research shows that women and people from underrepresented groups often apply to jobs only if they meet 100% of the qualifications. We recognize that it is highly unlikely that someone meets 100% of the qualifications for a role. If much of this job description describes you, then please apply for this position.


    The current salary range for this position is $168,058 - $199,009. Generous benefits are offered, including medical, prescription, vision and dental insurance, disability plans, and a 401(k)-match plan.


    Email cover letter, résumé or curriculum vitae, and names of three references with contact information to: Ida Tomlin, Senior Search Consultant at: References will not be contacted without prior permission of the applicant, and all applications and nominations are kept confidential. Application deadline is May 17, 2024. Nominations and inquiries welcome.


    Just as we value and celebrate biodiversity, the Detroit Zoological Society celebrates the diversity of our human community. We are committed to ensuring that our programs and facilities are fully accessible to our diverse communities and audiences and that our staff and volunteers reflect the multicultural fabric that is the strength of southeast Michigan.


    Detroit, the largest city in the state of Michigan, is home to 4.3 million people in the Metro Detroit area. This area is the second largest in the Midwest, after the Chicago metropolitan area, and the 14th largest in the United States. Cultural organizations abound in this city, including the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Michigan Science Center, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the Henry Ford, and the Motown Museum. Detroit is also home to a number of accredited colleges and universities, such as the University of Detroit Mercy, Wayne State University, and Wayne County Community College.

    The Detroit metropolitan area comprises three counties: Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb. The city is home to four major league sports teams: the Detroit Tigers (baseball), Detroit Lions (football), Detroit Red Wings (hockey), and Detroit Pistons (basketball). Additionally, the city is headquarters for the “Big Three” automakers: Ford Motor Company, General Motors (GM), and Stellantis North America (Chrysler). The Detroit Metropolitan Airport is one of the most important hub airports in the United States.

    Detroit International RiverWalk is an attractive destination for water enthusiasts, offering a riverfront promenade, various fountains, and splash parks for kids, a carousel, and nature areas that provide stunning views of Detroit and Canada. The Detroit River is perfect for private boating and sailing, fishing, and ferry rides. Music lovers can enjoy the Detroit Jazz Festival and other concerts that take place in Hart Plaza, a venue for summer festivals, concerts, and special events. Detroit is located just five miles from Windsor, Ontario, Canada, via the Ambassador Bridge or just one mile via the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.

    Detroit is experiencing an economic revival, and recent Standard & Poor’s Ratings (S&P) confirm that its financial position and economic condition are the strongest they've been in decades. Property values have increased for five consecutive years, and taxable wages keep growing.

    For more information on all Detroit has to offer, visit