DENR announces key leadership appointments to state parks and zoo
RALEIGH –The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources today announced two major appointments within its divisions: Mike Murphy as director of state parks and Patricia (Pat) Simmons as deputy director and chief operating officer of the North Carolina Zoo.
As its director, Murphy will oversee the state’s 35 parks and four recreation areas, 20 natural areas, seven lakes, four rivers and four state trails – all told, nearly 220,000 acres of land and water. Murphy succeeds Lewis Ledford, who retired after 37 years of service to the state parks system. Murphy assumes his duties July 22.
“Mike brings to us passion, experience and a terrific skill set,” DENR Secretary John Skvarla said. “He is ideally suited to lead the division as we approach the North Carolina state parks system's centennial celebration in 2016. His diverse background as a science educator, a financial expert and businessman will play critical roles in supporting the multiple components of our state parks system.”
Murphy, 60, is a past managing director and president of Trident Financial Services, a Raleigh company acquired by Ohio-based KeyCorp in 1999. He most recently served as an astronomy and physics instructor at Ravenscroft School in Raleigh and is the immediate past president of the Friends of the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, the private, nonprofit group that raises money for the museum and its educational programs.
“Mike’s experience with the friends of the museum will help us greatly expand partnerships and increase our outreach with the many groups interested in the future of state parks,” Skvarla said. “He will also help us build upon recent successes such as the additions of Chimney Rock and Grandfather Mountain state parks.”
Murphy earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental science from the University of Virginia, a Master of Business Administration from UNC Chapel Hill and two other master’s degrees, including one for astronomy from Swinburne University of Technology. He also served six years in the U.S. Navy, where he rose to the rank of lieutenant.
At the N.C. Zoo in Asheboro, Simmons will provide oversight for the facility’s future growth and is positioned to succeed Zoo Director David Jones when Jones retires in March 2016. Simmons’ first day is Sept. 2. The N.C. Zoo is the world’s largest land-area zoo, encompassing more than 2,000 acres. It welcomes more than 750,000 visitors annually. An announcement about Simmons’ appointment was included in a June 3 news release from the zoo.
Simmons, 57, has spent the past 31 years at the Akron (Ohio) Zoo, including the past 25 as president and chief executive officer. Under her leadership, the Akron Zoo has enjoyed immense growth and prosperity. Since 2003, its operating budget has risen from $4.6 million to $10.4 million and its attendance has climbed from about 150,000 to a record-setting 389,500 in 2013.
“The North Carolina community is going to love Pat,” Skvarla said. “Her energy and enthusiasm are contagious. She’s accomplished remarkable things in Akron, and we’re excited about what she’ll bring, both present and future, to our zoo.”
More detailed biographies of Simmons and Murphy are included on the following pages. To learn more about state parks or the North Carolina Zoo, check out the websites at www.ncparks.gov or www.nczoo.org.