Roger Williams Park Zoo taps Johnson as new executive director

PROVIDENCE – The former director of conservation science operations for the San Diego Zoo is heading east to lead Rhode Island’s largest zoo.

Stacey Johnson, who has three decades’ experience as a zookeeper and held various roles across the country, has been named the new executive director of Roger Williams Park Zoo, the Rhode Island Zoological Society’s board of trustees announced Tuesday.

Johnson was hired after a national search following the departure of the zoo’s former executive director, Dr. Jeremy Goodman. Goodman departed the zoo and the Ocean State in September to become the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium’s next CEO and president.

Johnson said in a statement that his vision for a 21st-century zoo is for it to be a treasured community asset that offers “wholesome, fun experiences and guides public opinion toward active coexistence with nature and natural processes,” and looks forward to being part of the Roger Williams Park Zoo’s community.

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The zoological society’s board said that Johnson’s career started as a zookeeper and he worked his way up to higher positions in education at Busch Gardens, in animal management as a curator for ZOOWORLD, Palm Beach Zoo in Florida and Forth Worth Zoo in Texas. As an administrator, Johnson was the executive director for Lehigh Valley Zoo in Schnecksville, Pa., and CEO of The Living Desert Zoo and Garden in Palm Desert, Calif., the board said.

At the San Diego Zoo, Johnson led the Northern White Rhinoceros Initiative, managed the post-doctoral fellowships program and headed the zoo’s delegation to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, the board said.

“Stacey brings experience, enthusiasm and a fresh perspective to the zoo. He exemplifies all the qualities we were looking for; he is the right person to lead this institution into an exciting future as we begin our 150th anniversary in 2022,” said Patrick LeBeau, Rhode Island Zoological Society’s board chairman, in a statement.

James Bessette is the PBN special projects editor, and also covers the nonprofit and education sectors. You may reach him at You may also follow him on Twitter at @James_Bessette.