ODNR Division of Wildlife Chief Scott Zody submitted his resignation effective October 2. He ably served constituents, sportsmen and the Division of Wildlife for nearly four years. It has certainly been four years of challenges for both the Division and the sportsmen it serves. Zody lead the agency in meeting those challenges head-on and implementing changes to better serve all Ohioans. Change is always met with some resistance and so it was in these cases.
The Ohio Wildlife Council meeting of September 23 was the last meeting for Scott Zody as Chief of the Ohio Division of Wildlife. Chairwoman Karen Stewart-Linkhart “Chief Zody, we want to ensure that while everyone is here that the Ohio Wildlife Council recognize your service. We have a State of Ohio Wildlife Council Resolution to present to you. ” Chairwoman Stewart-Linkhart read the Resolution and presented it to Chief Zody. It was a very moving moment for both the Chief and the members of the Ohio Wildlife Council. Chief Zody declined comment despite requests from several members of the audience.
The Resolution read, in part, “WHEREAS, Chief Zody has participated and held leadership roles in national organizations including the Executive Committee for the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA), Chair of the Technology and Data Committee, member of the Energy and Wildlife Policy Committee and served on the Board of Directors for the Council to Advance Hunting and Shooting Sports.”
The resolution listed a number of accomplishments over Zody’s four-year tenure as Chief including outreach to sportsmen through species summits, efforts to remove the Ballville dam, shooting range improvements and expansion, hosting the first Federal Duck Stamp Competition held in Ohio and working for the formation of the Ohio Sportsmen’s Caucus in the Ohio General Assembly.
The resolution concluded, “NOW THEREFORE, be it RESOLVED that the Ohio Wildlife Council recognizes Chief Scott Zody as an enthusiastic hunter and fisherman, and for his distinguished dedicated and exemplary service to the conserving and improving the fish and wildlife resources so they continue to enhance the quality of life for all Ohioans.”
Following the emotional meeting Chief Zody said, “It has been a challenging but productive four years for me as Chief. Obviously you look back upon periods and think about things you would have liked to accomplished. We have moved the Division in a positive direction. We’ve become more effective and efficient. We’ve become more transparent to our stakeholders. These accomplishments should help the Division to continue to build trust and credibility with our stakeholders and the public. This is another chapter in what has been a wonderful career for me. I’ve been very blessed to have had these opportunities within ODNR and the Division of Wildlife.” Zody has dedicated more than 25-years of his career to various positions within ODNR.
The Ohio Wildlife Council has no formal role in the selection process for the next Chief. However, Council members may have certain opinions about the qualifications needed to lead the Division. Stewart-Linkhart continued, “Council doesn’t have a role but we can draft a letter to Director Zehringer. We can, as private citizens, write a letter to the Director. We wouldn’t name a person but make general recommendations on the kind of person we believe is needed to lead the Division.” Stewart-Linkhart encouraged all the engaged sportsmen and leaders of the statewide constituent organizations to be active participants in communicating concerns and advice regarding this critical leadership position of Division.
Sportsmen organizations have previously complained about the management style within the Kasich Administration and the ODNR leadership. The Division has struggled under what appears to be the ODNR leadership micro-managing the division. The active involvement and support of the ODNR department leadership is appreciated and important, however the micro-management effectively limits the Division of Wildlife’s ability to function in an effective manner. The Division needs to be able to pursue their mission. It is another area that is having a negative impact on the morale and effectiveness of the Division of Wildlife.
The next Chief of the Division, whether an interim acting chief or a permanent replacement, needs to be able to effectively function and lead within the culture of the ODNR. Certainly any new Chief must be able to work with a wide variety of people and organizations. It is critical they work with the Administration, as well as the General Assembly on a wide array of issues. They must have the confidence of the constituent base and the respect of the employees of the Division. There is also the US Fish and Wildlife Service, national organizations and even international relationships with the Great Lake Council to be considered. Choosing such a dynamic leader who also understands conservation is going to be a significant challenge.
I give a tip of my hat to Scott Zody for the dedication and professionalism he brought to the table as Chief. He visited Greene County Fish and Game Association on several occasions. He seemed to be constantly on the go attending functions and meetings not only in Ohio but across the country. I appreciate his open door to the constituent base and the press. Best wishes to Scott Zody on the next phase of his career.