State Senator named director of Lake Superior Zoo

Lemurs at the Lake Superior Zoo. (PHOTO: Sharon Mollerus, Flickr CC)

Soon, State Sen. Erik Simonson will tame ravenous beasts, feed ferocious predators, and see that no harm befalls innocent tour groups. And then when he comes home to Duluth he’ll run a zoo.

State Sen. Erik Simonson (DFL-Duluth)

Simonson, a Duluth Democratic-Farmer-Laborite, was named the executive director of the Lake Superior Zoo today. He will accept early retirement from his job as Assistant Chief of the Duluth Fire Department to take the position. He will remain a member of the legislature.

The Duluth News Tribune had the story, as did local TV stations who covered the Thursday conference.

From the Brady Slater story in the DNT:

“We have really lucked out,” said Diana Bouschor Dodge, president of the zoo’s board of directors at a news conference to announce the hiring.

Simonson, 49, will take over leadership on Sept. 18 of a zoo that has been flagging since being victimized by the flood of 2012. Losses of centerpiece exhibits, such as its polar bears, have been replaced by smaller attractions, and the number of annual visitors are down as the zoo has seen a revolving door of CEOs since 2013. The most recent permanent CEO left after four months in May.

But Simonson said he believes in the passion of the staff and supporters, and thinks the zoo can be revived as it heads into its 100th anniversary in six years in 2023.

“This is an exciting time,” he said. “It’s a day that should represent new opportunities.”

Simonson told the press that the Lake Superior Zoo will celebrate 100 years in 2023 and he hopes to create meaningful change for the organization by then.

Meanwhile, Senator Simonson will negotiate conflicts of interest in his new role. The nonprofit Lake Superior Zoo sought bonding funds via the city of Duluth in 2016. However, the city has been the biggest financial benefactor to the zoo organization.



  1. John Ramos says

    So I assume Simonson will spend his time lobbying for zoo bonding as president of the zoo, only to recuse himself from voting on that bonding as a senator to avoid a conflict of interest. Ummm…

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.