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Director of Garden Operations

  • Industry: Facilities Management
  • Location: Pennsylvania - Philadelphia
  • Client: Cultural/Non-Profit
  • Search ID: 19-0303-15

The Philadelphia Zoo has retained Helbling to conduct an executive search to secure a Director of Garden Operations (Director). 

The ideal candidate will be a collaborative leader and motivatiing developer of people, a lifelong learner, sets and achieves high standards for campus condition and aesthetics, and brings ethics and integrity to the role.

The Director provides overall direction and management of the horticulture, grounds, garden services / housekeeping, and automotive fleet management functions. This position leads and directs all activities and staff related to landscape maintenance, grounds maintenance, building janitorial functions, and fleet maintenance throughout the 42-acre garden, adjacent parking areas and site periphery, and provides management direction for the logistical support of special events. The Director plans and monitors the operating budget and works with other departments on capital improvements to the garden. The Director oversees a collective team of union and non-union staff, including two managers and several other direct reports.  

Essential Functions

  • Oversees all care and maintenance of plants and gardens, including those in public spaces and in animal exhibits and buildings, etc.
  • Oversees the Garden custodial and housekeeping functions, including routine custodial tasks to maintain the cleanliness of restrooms, offices, public spaces in animal and other buildings and the Garden at large; snow/leaf removal; and drain cleaning.
  • Functions as manager of Zoo vehicle fleet, including golf carts, trucks, and heavy equipment. 
  • Develops and implements long-term plans for facility horticulture, landscaping, grounds maintenance, and fleet in coordination with the Planning Department, pursuant to the institution's master plan and operating plans.
  • Provides oversight of the logistical support (setup, breakdown) for all events taking place in the Garden. 
  • Oversees the management of the municipal, recyclable, and compostable material waste streams.  
  • Most importantly, leads a workforce including full-time, part-time and seasonal staff in a workplace with a strong emphasis on guest experience.
Within above areas of responsibility:
  • Establishes performance goals and standards, including standards to support the staff and guest experience.
  • Develops, documents, and implements policies and procedures to ensure safety and compliance with all Zoo policies.
  • Oversees the hiring, training, and supervision of staff.
  • Monitors performance of direct reports and provides prompt, objective coaching and counseling; establishes performance goals and job standards; and conducts annual performance and salary reviews for direct reports.
  • Assures that effective communications are maintained within areas of responsibility and regularly conducts employee discussions and meetings as required to inform, coordinate, and implement projects and programs.
  • Develops and implements plans to ensure the effective and proper use of people, materials, and equipment. Ensures that work is performed in accordance with appropriate stands of quality for cleanliness, aesthetic appeal and timeliness; and takes action to correct defective work as required.
  • Works with the Sustainability Manager to implement sustainable practices.
  • Acts as a key management representative for department on collective bargaining matters, serving on labor / management committees, processing grievances, and participating in labor / management initiatives, etc.
  • Develops and administers annual department operating and capital projects budget.
  • Acts, when needed, as Incident Commander, Operations, or Logistics leader during Zoo-wide alerts and emergencies. Generally, acts as a key operations leader for the organization, and may act as stand-in point for other Facilities groups (e.g. Engineering).  

The Organization

In 1874, Philadelphia became home to America’s first zoo. Now celebrating almost 150 years of innovation and achievement, Philadelphia Zoo is a key part of the region’s life and culture, a compelling living classroom, and a conservation leader.  

The Philadelphia Zoo is home to nearly 1,300 animals, many of which are rare and endangered. A resource to schools and families in the Philadelphia region and beyond, and an advocate for endangered animals around the world, Philadelphia Zoo is dedicated to the engagement of more than 1M annual visitors with animal and environmental conservation. Recent initiatives include Zoo360, a first-in-the-world animal trail system that offers animals opportunities to travel and explore, and KidZooU - a children’s zoo and education center that serves as a model for children’s zoos nationwide.

In 2019, the Zoo is advancing two critical planning efforts: a new five-year strategic plan and a site master plan that will re-envision the gardens and animal habitats. The results of these planning projects will chart a path forward for the organization, a path which requires leaders who will shape both the guest experience and the internal culture at Philadelphia Zoo. 

Knowledge and Abilities Required

  • Bachelor’s Degree in Horticulture or related field.  
  • Minimum of five (5) years’ experience caring for a varied outdoor horticulture collection or landscape. 
  • Minimum of three (3) years’ management / supervisory experience in a zoo, botanical garden, park, campus, or similar environment. Experience working in a zoo, thematic park, or a related recreational operation desirable. Management experience in a collective bargaining environment preferred.
  • Ability to evaluate and interpret architectural drawings and specifications desirable.
  • Knowledge of the operation and maintenance of yard maintenance equipment, trucks, and power tools as related to Garden operation.
  • Demonstrated hands on experience directing a large workforce consisting of full-time, part-time and seasonal staff in a workplace with a strong emphasis on guest experience, excellent customer service, and positive employee relations. Demonstrated ability to achieve goals through others.  
  • Demonstrated experience working with many different groups of people and interests. Ability to build relationships with wide variety of stakeholders, including colleagues, senior managers, Board members, union leadership, volunteers, outside vendors / contractors, casual visitors to the Zoo and facility rental clients.
  • Demonstrated ability to sustain effective working relationships with senior managers, peers, and subordinates; superior interpersonal skills; ability to work with diverse personalities; and tactful manner and flexible attitude.
  • Demonstrated excellence in written and oral communication skills. Demonstrated experience developing, documenting, and implementing policies, procedures, and standards in a customer-oriented, service environment. Ability to communicate technical information and instructions to staff and to contractors.
  • Demonstrated experience developing and monitoring department and project budgets within the objectives and parameters established by the institution.
  • Ability to work a flexible schedule. Regular workweek will include one weekend day. Some evening work is required.
  • Ability to use MS Office programs.
  • Ability to use CMMS systems for Zoo equipment, vehicle, plant, and grounds assets.

Physical Requirements

  • Successful completion of a post-offer pre-employment general medical screen and drug test prior to starting work.
  • No allergies related to plants, animals, chemicals and/or products used in the performance of work, which may interfere with the ability to work.
  • Physically fit and able to work outside in varying weather conditions with exposure to inclement weather, dust, animals, and noise, in addition to potentially dangerous or hazardous chemicals.
  • Use of protective equipment or clothing may be required for some tasks, including, but not limited to, goggles, gloves, braces, gowns, boots, etc.

Search Consultant: Aubrey Allen

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