TWS names Ed Thompson executive director and CEO

By David Frey

The Wildlife Society has named Ed Thompson as its next executive director and chief executive officer. Thompson, who currently serves as chief operating officer of the Society, will take over in the new role on July 1 when current Executive Director Ken Williams retires.

“Ed is familiar and experienced with all facets of The Wildlife Society and he sees the importance of our science mission,” said TWS President Bruce Thompson. “He has significant background for leading organizations, he’s innovative, he’s technically savvy and he has a can-do spirit. Perhaps most of all, he has a rare ability to plan and prioritize, coupled with the ability to engage our members and partners.”

His hiring represents a break from tradition. Thompson will be TWS’s first executive director not to come from a wildlife biology background. His selection follows the model of other organizations, including the National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy, Pheasants Forever, The Audubon Society and Sierra Club, all of which have hired directors for their business experience.

“Ed is neither a scientist nor a biologist, but he is a hell-bent-for-leather manager,” said Williams, who will work alongside him through the transition. “As far as running an organization like ours, he’s as good as it gets.”

Thompson brings more than 20 years of executive experience in membership organizations, including three years as the Society’s COO.

“When I look at how far we’ve come over the past three years, I get very excited about our prospects for the future,” Thompson said. “My admiration for the wildlife professionals who are out there making a difference every day inspires me to work harder to provide them with even better services and information.”

Former TWS president Gary Potts, who led the search committee, praised Thompson for innovations he has brought to the Society as COO, including the Give Back Program, the 1,000 program and improvements to membership outreach and partnerships.

“His knowledge of TWS, fundraising ideas, smart business practices, building partnerships and use of public relations and media outlets project an exciting growth potential for the future of TWS,” Potts said.

In his new role as CEO, Thompson will continue many of his current responsibilities, allowing the COO position to be eliminated.

“Ken and I have worked together so well, and his leadership has been very helpful to me,” he said. “Together, we’ll make this transition seamless so that our staff, Council and members don’t miss a beat as we continue to build upon our success.”

Thompson was selected from more than 30 candidates as part of a year-long search process. The final five were interviewed by the search committee, which recommended Thompson for the position.

“Ed’s taking this position is the start of a very, very robust future for The Wildlife Society,” Williams said.

David Frey is an editor at The Wildlife Society. Contact him at dfrey@wildlife.org with any questions or comments about his article. Read more of David's articles here.

You can follow him on Twitter at @davidmfrey.