CEO- Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center

Posted: 7 December 2023| Full-Time |Kansas, US


The Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center seeks candidates for its CEO role. This position leads the team in their mission to enrich their community through wildlife conservation and education. With an impressive track record of innovative projects and a master plan outlining a visionary future, the next CEO stands to lead the Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center into a new era that redefines what it means to be a modern zoo.

Candidate Strengths, Skills, and Qualities

At their core, the next CEO should be an authentic, sincere, genuine leader who actively models transparency in their communications and who can demonstrate compassion, empathy, and care for staff and guests. Having the ability to build buy-in while consistently making progress toward strategic priorities is key and critical for advancing the ambitious master plan. The CEO will need to be committed to continue to grow the Zoo’s DEAI initiatives and the organization’s sustainability goals.

While this is an exciting time to lead the Topeka Zoo, it is also a time of transformation. The next phase of the master plan is set to break ground in 2025, and funding for this and future projects will rely on the CEO’s strength in donor cultivation and fundraising. The ideal candidate will also have experience with grant writing and solid financial acumen. To continue in its track record of pushing the boundaries of what the Topeka Zoo can and should be, a candidate should be a visionary and innovative thinker who can communicate and motivate others to join them in imagining the future.

Additional qualities successful candidates will have include: a deep understanding of the role modern zoos play in conservation, including advocacy, driving community partnerships, and looking holistically at the factors that contribute to sustainability success. Though not a prerequisite to have experience in animal care themselves, the next CEO should have a thorough awareness of the principles of animal wellbeing and an appreciation for the priority this takes within the scope of the role and organisation. Demonstrated knowledge of AZA and USDA standards and other regulatory bodies is essential.

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 Executive Officer role.

Leadership, Vision, and Executive Management

  • Serve as the Chief Executive Officer of the
    Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center, with ultimate responsibility for the human, fiscal, and capital resources of an organization with a clear mission and ambitious plans for its future.
  • Recognize, support, and mentor staff and volunteers to realize their potential.
  • Continue building the positive culture focused on attracting, retaining, and developing a high-performing leadership team.
  • Advance diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives to ensure Topeka Zoo’s team, volunteers, and audiences reflect the communities it does and should serve.
  • Continually reinforce the mission and values of the Zoo, promoting an inclusive and transparent team culture.
  • Nurture an environment of creativity, innovation, and collaboration, encouraging the staff and organization to develop unique solutions and offerings.
  • Ensure a top-rated and engaging guest experience, strengthening opportunities to inspire and connect guests with the Zoo’s mission.
  • Ensure mission-oriented operations and programming (e.g., conservation, education, and animal care and wellbeing) are measurably successful and innovative.
  • Ensure best-in-class animal well-being and associated exhibit designs, meeting or exceeding industry standards, trends, best practices and requirements.
  • Maintain the Zoo’s compliance with all state, local, and federal regulations.
  • Maintain the Zoo’s accreditation status with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and become an active contributor and member of the Association.
  • Lead the organisation in maximising opportunities to generate revenue with varied earned income streams, including: gate, concessions, amenities, and events.
  • Formulate the annual operating and capital budgets and maintain the overall financial integrity of the Zoo by monitoring associated operating revenues and expenses, contributions, capital expenditures, and other related financial matters.
  • Develop and direct the development and implementation of the Zoo’s Master and Strategic Plans, large, complex capital projects, ensuring timelines and budgets are met.

Community Relations and Fundraising

  • Become identified as the ‘face of Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center,’ a visible and trusted advocate and champion for the Zoo throughout the community and beyond, including participating on strategic boards and in the national and international conver- sation on conservation and the benefits of city/community zoos.
  • Ensure that the Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center remains and builds upon its reputation as an essential community destination that educates, inspires, entertains, and encourages conservation action.
  • Engage frequently and easily with the community, regularly attending events, supporting initiatives, and recognizing the symbolic importance of active involvement in the community.
  • Maintain and strengthen relations with government officials at all levels. Ensure that key public leaders and decision-makers understand and support the Zoo’s unique capabilities, positions, and contributions.
  • Work together with the Board and the Zoo’s Philanthropy team, serving as Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center’s lead fundrais- er, cultivating donors and overseeing philanthropy for both oper- ating support and capital projects included in the master plan.
  • Oversee broad-based marketing, promotion, and fundraising campaigns.

Board Management

  • Strengthen and engage the Board of Directors with a transparent and regular communication philosophy.
  • Collaborate with the Board in confirming the mission of the Zoo and setting future strategic direction.
  • Support the Board in their work of providing their time, talent, and treasures to the organisation

application process

The Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center 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 Lauren David at

More information about the role can be found here. Questions about the role can be directed to David Walsh at

The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) is the global alliance of regional associations, national federations, zoos and aquariums, dedicated to the care and conservation of animals and their habitats around the world.

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