Scott Zody, the former chief of the Ohio Division of Wildlife, has died, leaving his current boss to say he is both stunned and saddened by the personal and professional loss.
Zody – who just turned 50 a short while ago – left the Wildlife Division last October 2 after a 25-year career with that agency as well as with its parent Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Zody was found dead Wednesday in his Sugar Grove home. Sugar Grove is located south of Lancaster, which is about 31 miles southeast of Columbus. It is believed that Zody died of natural causes.
After giving up his $106,870 salary as the Wildlife Division chief Zody went back to Fairfield County. There he became the chief deputy county auditor as well as chief of staff for Jon A. Slater, the Fairfield County Auditor.
Slater said in a brief telephone interview that he and the rest of his 35 or so-person staff are in a state of sadden shock.
“We really don’t have very many details but we are all deeply saddened by Scott’s death and we wish to extend our deepest sympathy to his family,” Slater said.
Zody leaves behind a wife and two children.
Slater said also that he and Zody knew each other for a long time, both professionally and also as fellow sportsmen.
Together they served in various capacities including as volunteers with the National Wild Turkey Federation, a national pro-hunting and conservation organization.
Slater said the suddenness of Zody’s death was particularly distressing, the former saying the latter “looked perfectly fine to me” prior to his death.
“Scott was a tremendous colleague and friend,” Slater said. “He’s going to be missed.”
Likewise, Natural Resources Director James Zehringer told his agency’s personnel via electronic notification that he, too was sadden by the news of Zody’s sudden death.
“Scott was the assistant director of ODNR, served as interim director and was most recently the chief of the Division of Wildlife before accepting a position with Fairfield County that kept him closer to home and allowed him to spend more time with his family,” Zehringer said in his email to departmental staff.
“Please join me in keeping Scott’s wife, Beth, and his children, Nathan and Lauren in your thoughts and prayers.”
In a September 16th, 2015 blog about Zody’s departure from the Wildlife Division and the Natural Resources Department, it was noted that the former state had a lengthy 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.
Zody also at one time worked for former Ohio State Senator and Cleveland Browns offensive lineman Richard “Dick” Schafrath.
And in 2014 Zody unsuccessfully applied for the job of executive director of the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks District.
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, including internal issues involving personnel, whether the Wildlife Division or the Ohio Department of Agriculture should have authority over deer propagation businesses, along with 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.
This story will be added to when further details become available.
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. 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.