Memphis Zoo president and CEO Chuck Brady will retire from the post in April.
Brady has been with the zoo for 38 years, according to a news release from the zoo on Friday.
"As CEO since 2003, Chuck helped raise approximately $80 million in major capital improvements — $60 million from private funds, and led the charge to make our zoo one of the highest-ranked zoos in the country,” Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said in a statement. “He will be missed."
Brady’s Memphis Zoo career began in 1980 as curator of mammals and rose to the top job in 2003. He played an integral role, according to the news release, to bring giant pandas to the zoo, which brought an expansion of the zoo’s conservation and research activities. “He has led the zoo in providing a global voice for conservation, research, species reintroduction, and overall animal welfare,” reads the release.
Brady was also a central figure in the ongoing and controversial saga of the zoo using the Overton Park Greensward for overflow parking. The issue began decades ago but sparked again in 2014 and ignited protests, one in 2016 drawing a heavy presence by the Memphis Police Department, including its helicopter.
Brady was also the central figure in a gender-discrimination lawsuit filed against the zoo by a former employee. The employee, a woman, claimed Brady held her to different standards than her male counterparts and used phrases like “cat fight” and “hen house” when describing women-involved issues and places at the zoo. It was not immediately clear if that suit is ongoing.
“Memphis Zoo will miss Chuck’s leadership,” Memphis Zoological Society Board President Tommy Farnsworth said in a statement. “He has demonstrated and proven his ability to make Memphis Zoo a first-class organization for staff and guests alike.
“He has played an instrumental role in the overall transformation of the zoo and his commitment to making Memphis Zoo a better place going forward, is recognized and appreciated.”
The Memphis Zoo board will form a search committee to find Brady’s successor, reads the news release. The board will use a national executive search firm to facilitate the search. A job announcement will be released in the upcoming weeks.