Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Wildlife Division chief Zody resigns - Includes his electronically-sent statement to agency employees

Scott Zody, chief of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife for two months shy of four years, tendered his resignation, effective October 2.

The 49-year-old Zody has more than 25 years of employment invested in the Natural Resources Department. By resigning, Zody will give up an annual salary of $106,870.

Zody sent late afternoon September 15th (Tuesday) via cellular telephone service his resignation announcement to some or all Wildlife Division employees along with a select list of others involved in the outdoors community.

This announcement by Zody is included in its entirety at the conclusion of the ollowing main story.

Natural Resources Department media spokeswoman Bethany McCorkle said the news of Zody’s resignation was a little unexpected though the department does have in place protocols for such contingencies.

“We’re always working on succession planning but this was a little bit of a surprise,” McCorkle told the Ohio Outdoor News.

Asked if the Natural Resources Department has any idea who it will pick to replace Zody – even on an interim basis - McCorkle told the Ohio Outdoor News that it is “too early to tell.”

“We are, though, in discussions,” McCorkle said.

Zody has a long career working for various Ohio county and state governmental institutions. Among them included the Fairfield County Board of Commissioners, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, and the Legislative Service Commission.

Likewise, before he went to work for the Natural Resources Department Zody worked for former Ohio State Senator and Cleveland Browns offensive lineman Richard “Dick” Schafrath.

And about one year ago Zody did apply for the job of executive director of the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks District, though he was not selected by that entity’s park board.

During his nearly four-year stint as the head of the Wildlife Division Zody had to deal with a mind-bending array of contentious issues, some of which he inherited. Included in the list of prickly matters that Zody had to navigate his agency through and around was the issue of the so-called Brown County Five, wildlife officers assigned to the agency’s District Five (southwest Ohio office) found hunting while on duty, media-fed flaps over various people raising wild fawn deer without the necessary Wildlife Division permits, whether the Wildlife Division or the Ohio Department of Agriculture should have authority over deer propagation businesses, the appearance of chronic wasting disease in a Holmes County captive deer herd, and facing two consecutive failed attempts to get the Republican-controlled Ohio General Assembly to increase non-resident hunting license fees.

However, what may be the most querulous issue that stalked Zody – and which no doubt will also shadow his replacement - is how the Wildlife Division has and is managing its deer herd.  Many Ohio hunters say that the Wildlife Division’s strategy of employing liberal bag limits and generous hunting seasons has sent the state’s deer population into a nose dive.

Thus, with all of the fore-mentioned matters boiling on the state’s wildlife management stove, Zody has his share of critics – and perhaps, then some.

Among them is Brown County resident and wildlife policy Cerberus, Troy Conley.

For years Conley has dogged the Wildlife Division in an effort to uncover what he believes to be improper agency personnel conduct as well as clutching unto policies that run against the grain of benefitting both wildlife and sportsmen’s interests.

“I met with Scott Zody shortly after he filled the position as chief and I had high hopes he would step in and start making some badly needed changes to clean up the huge mess which began here in District Five (southwest Ohio),” Conley said.

Conley said also that some small and positive steps were taken under Zody’s tutelage, though much more remains to be done in order to “repair the integrity that was destroyed.”

“But I truly wish Mr. Zody well in all of his future endeavors, and I hold out hope that his replacement will hold accountable any employee caught in any wrong-doing,” Conley said.

Yet even some of the agency’s harshest critics - who contend that the Wildlife Division has experienced not only a severe slump in employee morale but also a loss of credibility in the eyes of the agency’s constituency base – wish Zody well.

“Scott always carried himself in a professional and dignified manner, even when we disagreed with each other,” said Dennis W. Malloy Jr. of Cortland and a field representative for Whitetails Unlimited.

That said, Malloy said as well that Ohio’s sportsmen were too often stymied in seeing their points regarding deer management and other issues heard, let alone, adopted, by the Wildlife Division during Zody’s tenure as chief.

“We haven’t been happy with the direction the Wildlife Division has taken regarding (especially) deer management under Scott’s leadership,” Malloy said. “What we need to do is begin to rebuild the trust between the Wildlife Division and the state’s sportsmen and sportswomen.”

In an email sent to employees of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife – with C.C. copies to other individuals associated with Ohio’s outdoors community –Scott Zody addresses his decision to step down October 2nd from his role as the agency’s chief.

Here is the text of Zody’s email statement to Wildlife Division employees and others, sent via his cellular telephone at 2:44 p.m., Tuesday, September 15:

“By now most of you have probably heard the news/rumor that I have submitted my intent to resign as the Chief effective October 2nd.  I am writing to let you know that is indeed accurate.  

“This decision was of my choosing and under my terms.

“The past 4 years serving as your Chief have been challenging to say the least, but in spite of the obstacles placed before us, we still accomplished much.

“Looking past the frustrations and difficulties we faced, we have moved the agency in a positive direction by becoming more accessible to our customers and improved our operational efficiencies and partnerships, both internal and external.

“My biggest disappointment has been not achieving long term financial stability for the Division, but I am confident you, working with our stakeholders, will finish the job we set out to do 3 years ago.

“While I may be embarking on a new path in my own career, I will always try to do what I can to be helpful to the Division of Wildlife.  I am and will remain proud to have the honor of serving you.

“Best wishes and God speed.”

Chief Z(ody)

By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Jeff is the retired News-Herald reporter who  covered the earth sciences, the area's three county park systems and the outdoors for the newspaper. During his 30 years with The News-Herald Jeff is the recipient of more than 125 state, regional and national journalism awards. He also is a columnist and features writer for the Ohio Outdoor News, which is published every other week and details the outdoors happenings in the state.

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