Local News

N.C. Zoo hires new deputy director

Posted June 3, 2014 4:43 p.m. EDT
Updated June 3, 2014 5:14 p.m. EDT

— L. Patricia (Pat) Simmons, director of the Akron (Ohio) Zoo, will become the North Carolina Zoo's deputy director and chief operating officer, the Asheboro facility announced Tuesday.

In her new position, Simmons, 57, will provide oversight for the facility’s future growth. Her hiring is part of a long-range strategic effort that includes a master plan and strategic growth opportunities, the zoo said.

Simmons has been president and chief executive officer of the Akron Zoo for 29 years. She will succeed David Jones, the current N.C. Zoo director, when he retires in March 2016, the zoo said.

Mary Joan Pugh, the zoo's current deputy director, will remain as a deputy director, officials said.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for me to use my experience to assist another Association of Zoos & Aquariums accredited institution with its growth opportunities and long-range plans,” Simmons said in a statement. “It will be an exciting new challenge. It was a difficult decision to leave the Akron Zoo, which is near and dear to my heart. But I feel our zoo is in a great place right now and I am leaving at a high point in the zoo’s history.”

At the Akron Zoo, Simmons secured stable funding, developed a “top-rate” conservation education program and implemented a 14-year master plan that included adding more than 30 new animal exhibits, the N.C. Zoo said.

The Akron Zoo set an attendance record last year with more than 389,000 visitors. The N.C. Zoo annually sees nearly 750,000 visitors.

Simmons' first day will be Sept. 2.