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New Columbus Zoo CEO Takes Over

Tom Schmid
Texas State Aquarium
Tom Schmid

The new Columbus Zoo and Aquarium CEO charged with restoring the facility’s reputation begins his work Monday.

It’s the first day on the job for Tom Schmid, who accepted the position in October. Schmid previously led the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Schmid is also the former chair of the board of directors for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which revoked its accreditation of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium after a scandal-plagued year that included charges of financial mismanagement and the zoo’s relationships with controversial animal vendors that were highlighted in a documentary.

The zoo has since appealed the loss of accreditation, and has been accredited by another organization, the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks & Aquariums

Speaking to WOSU in October when he accepted the job, Schmid said he was surprised at the Association of Zoos and Aquariums revoking its accreditation.

“Everything that I know about the zoo, and I’ve known about the zoo prior to this and certainly what I’ve learned over the last several months indicates to me that the Columbus Zoo is meeting or exceeding, virtually all of the AZA’s accreditation standards,” Schmid said.

The AZA also was concerned about the mismanagement of funds by former leadership.

Former CEO Tom Stalf and former CFO Greg Bell resigned in March after an investigation found they allowed relatives to live in houses owned or controlled by the zoo and sought tickets for family members to zoo events.

“Maybe we could have had a little bit stronger governance structure,” Schmid said in October. “You know it’s very difficult when you have one executive doing this, but when you have two and they can collude that’s exceedingly difficult to catch sometimes.”

Schmid said in October that he’d already seen positive changes.

“A number of internal policies and procedures have been enacted to make sure nothing like this happens again,” Schmid said. “And I’ve actually spoken directly with the Chairman of the Zoo Board as well. And I certainly know that I will be under more scrutiny which I welcome.”

Schmid will have a base salary of $425,000 a year, as well as benefits and opportunities for bonuses.