Asheboro, NC — The North Carolina Zoo has announced the appointment of L. Patricia (Pat) Simmons, currently director of the Akron (Ohio) Zoo, as the zoo’s deputy director and chief operating officer. Simmons will assume the N.C. Zoo post Sept. 2.

Simmons, 57, has served the Akron Zoo for more than 31 years, including the past 29 as president and chief executive officer. In her new position at the N.C. Zoo, she will provide oversight for the Asheboro facility’s future growth and succeed Dr. David Jones, 67, the current zoo director, when he retires in March 2016. Jones, has served as N.C. Zoo director since 1994.

Simmons has served with the Akron Zoo for more than 31 years, including the past 29 as president and chief executive officer. Her appointment to the N.C. Zoo post is part of a long-range strategic plan which includes a master plan and strategic growth opportunities for the Asheboro facility. Simmons is expected to move into the director’s position in 2016 when current director, Dr. David Jones, retires. Jones has served as N.C. Zoo director since 1994.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for me to use my experience to assist another Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) accredited institution with its growth opportunities and long-range plans,” Simmons said. “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.”

Jones expressed excitement about Simmons’ appointment.

“I am delighted that Pat has decided to join us here in North Carolina,” Jones said. “There is no one better qualified to take our beautiful zoo to the next level. I’m sure her energy and enthusiasm will carry us well into the next decade.”

Simmons has a national reputation in the zoo community, having served on a variety of boards and committees with AZA, including board chair in 2012. AZA is North America’s preeminent organization of zoo and aquarium professionals.

During her career at the Akron Zoo Simmons secured a stable source of funding for the zoo, developed a top-rate conservation education program and implemented a 14-year master plan that included adding more than 30 new animal exhibits. Last year the Akron Zoo set an attendance record with more than 389,000 visitors. The N.C. Zoo annually sees nearly 750,000 visitors, and with more than 2,000 acres is the world’s largest land area zoo.

The zoo is an agency of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, John E. Skvarla, III, Secretary; Pat McCrory, Governor.