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National Aquarium Names Dale Schmidt New Chief Operating Officer


National Aquarium is pleased to announce the appointment of Dale Schmidt as Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer (COO).

As a member of the Aquarium’s senior leadership team, Schmidt will be responsible for capital planning, exhibit development, guest services, safety, food services, facilities maintenance and retail services.

“Dale brings a wealth of knowledge and leadership skills to the position and organization,” said John Racanelli, CEO of National Aquarium. “His enthusiasm, competence and passion will elevate the engagement, quality and guest focus of the National Aquarium dramatically. Dale is a consummate professional, and we’re lucky to have attracted him here.”

Schmidt has more than 30 years of experience working for accredited zoological organizations. He served as President and CEO of the Columbus Zoological Association; President and CEO of Oregon Coast Aquarium; Executive Director of Clearwater Marine Aquarium; and Vice President of Operations of The Florida Aquarium. He has also worked in operations for such organizations as John Shawn Productions, Inc.; Universal Studios Florida; and Busch Entertainment Corporation.

“I am proud to be a part of the National Aquarium, which is recognized for providing a world-class experience to guests while inspiring conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures,” said Schmidt. “As I join John and his talented team in advancing the Aquarium’s mission and goals, I also look forward to building even stronger partnerships, inspiring our staff and other stakeholders and further developing the operations and guest services of one of the nation’s great aquariums.”

Schmidt, who recently served as chair of the Business Operations Special Committee for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Natural Sciences from the University of South Florida. He also completed a leadership program at the Stanford Nonprofit Management Institute and served as Vice Chairman of the Zoo and Aquarium Committee for the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions.

Schmidt takes on this role in preparation for the retirement of Paula Schaedlich, who is stepping down from her role as Vice President and COO after a successful 32-year career at National Aquarium. Never one to leave important work unfinished, Schaedlich has committed to staying on board to lead the completion of Blacktip Reef, the Aquarium’s newest exhibit, which opens July 10. During her tenure, Schaedlich has been instrumental in developing guest and education programs, designing innovative exhibits, managing biological programs and leading a multitude of other operational initiatives. She is actively involved with AZA as a member of the Board of Regents and the Public Education Committee and recently served on the Accreditation Commission.