ASHEBORO — The N.C. Zoo has a new director on deck.
L. Patricia Simmons, currently director of the Akron Zoo in Ohio, will join the N.C. Zoo on Sept. 2. She’ll begin as a deputy director and chief operating officer, and in May 2016 will succeed David Jones, 67, the current director.
Simmons, 57, has worked for 29 years as president of the Akron Zoo. David Jones has led the N.C. Zoo since 1994.
“It was a difficult decision to leave the Akron Zoo, which is near and dear to my heart,” Simmons said in a statement. “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.”
For his part, Jones praised Simmons’ “energy and enthusiasm.”
“I am delighted that Pat has decided to join us here in North Carolina,” Jones said in a statement. “There is no one better qualified to take our beautiful zoo to the next level.”
During her tenure in Akron, Simmons secured a stable source of funding for the zoo, developed a conservation education program and implemented a 14-year master plan that included more than 30 new animal exhibits, according to the N.C. Zoo.
The N.C. Zoo sees nearly 750,000 visitors a year, and at more than 2,000 acres is the world’s largest zoo by land area, according to the zoo. The Akron Zoo set an attendance record of nearly 400,000 visitors last year.