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29 Nov 2022

Full-Time Senior Director, Government Affairs & Policy

Shedd Aquarium – Posted by Chicago, Illinois, United States

Shedd Aquarium logo

Job Description

The Senior Director of Government Affairs and Policy will work with the Senior Vice President of External Affairs and Marketing to cultivate and maintain relationships with government, civic and political stakeholders as well as identify and implement comprehensive engagement initiatives that amplify the leadership and collective impact of Shedd Aquarium and its mission.

This is a unique opportunity to join a forward-thinking, hands-on, results-driven, and highly collaborative team and play a pivotal role. This individual will serve as an advisor on complex and strategic issues and provided day-to-day leadership working with local, state and federal elected officials and agencies, NGOs and coalitions, commissions, and community groups to advance Shedd’s climate change and biodiversity goals as well as environmental education, equity and justice goals.

This role will require strong teamwork with colleagues across multiple departments and teams, including Animal Care, Science and Conservation Research, Conservation Programs and Partnerships, Learning and Community, Public Relations, Marketing, Design and Exhibits, Finance, Legal, and Development.

The right candidate should be comfortable finding creative ways of engaging diverse audiences with a strategic and nuanced lens and possess the ability to think both creatively and analytically with high attention to detail.

Responsibilities & Duties

  • Demonstrate commitment to Shedd’s vision, mission, and values

Government Relations & Policy 

  • Develop and implement the implementation of Shedd Aquarium’s comprehensive government relations, legislative and policy agenda
  • Work with the SVP to develop, maintain and cultivate relationships with key stakeholders, elected officials, and agencies to influence ocean and freshwater conservation, operations, funding, economic impact, sustainability, DEAI, tourism, and other priorities.
  • Strengthen the Aquarium’s reputation and influence by building and maintaining a strong network of NGO, government, science, and business relationships
  • Oversee the Aquarium’s lobbying compliance and reporting program
  • Represent Shedd Aquarium with Chicago Alderpersons/City Council, the Illinois General Assembly, on Capitol Hill, with the White House, and in various coalitions.
  • Organize one-on-one meetings, tours, advocacy days, and other forms of engagement with aquarium leaders and experts to engage officials, stakeholders, and corporate and civic leaders to advance priorities and partnerships.
  • Plan and implement special projects and initiatives, partner activities, speaking engagements. Actively participate in function-related social engagements as a representative of Shedd.  Attend public and civic meetings, conferences, standing committees, business, and civic functions, and network opportunities and other business as determined.
  • Prepare required information including local and state lobbying activity, subject briefings, and other as necessary.

Communications, Advocacy and Engagement 

  • Maintain and build expertise of conservation subjects and issues.  Serve as reliable, knowledgeable source of current, relevant information and provide content and input for Shedd messaging and communications needs. Serve as Shedd spokesperson for media and other public appearances. Provide counsel to SVP and others.
  • Identify significant media and public policy issues and topics relevant to the aquarium’s operations and ambitions and create and implement campaigns and plans to leverage them
  • Works closely with aquarium teams to inform the development of policy engagements with aquarium guests onsite, online and in communities.
  • Contribute to efforts to advance and clearly articulate the organization’s voice, leadership, and impact through the creation of communication and engagement tools and vehicles for various audiences.
  • Develop and support institutional narrative frameworks and positioning statements, key messages, talking points, opinion editorials, presentations, and executive speechwriting across a variety of mission-related subjects.

Departmental Responsibilities 

  • Contribute to annual departmental planning and budget process and assists the Senior Vice President along with other Directors in setting strategic direction for the External Affairs and Marketing department.
  • Manage timelines, budgets, consultants, lobbyists, and project teams in a highly organized and efficient fashion.
  • Serve as an active, engaged, and responsible team member that represents departmental and institutional interests at internal and external meetings.
  • Supervise the Coordinator of Government Affairs and Policy. Manage and coach staff for performance. Develop and monitor professional growth opportunities and training plans.
  • Demonstrate a commitment to professional and personal growth by initiating dialogue with colleagues, engaging in self-directed learning, and focusing on professional development goals.
  • Represent the department on cross-departmental teams, task forces and strategic initiatives.
  • Fulfill other duties as required.


  • This position requires a sound working knowledge of local, state, and federal political, legislative and regulatory processes, operations, policies and protocols gained through 8 or more years of previous experience working in/or with government administrations, public policy, strategic communications and/or nonprofit environments.
  • Bachelor’s degree in the sciences, law, communications, political science, policy, or related field.
  • Expertise in Ocean, Great Lakes, and/or Environmental Conservation communication and policy.
  • Strong knowledge of conservation and environmental science and federal funding mechanisms.
  • Strong professional network in zoos, aquariums, NGOs, and/or ocean/Great Lakes policy and science.

Experience & Skills: 

  • Strong communication skills including the ability to write for different audiences; be a highly competent and effective public speaker; and can work effectively with people who have different views.
  • Excellent team player with experience working in multi-disciplinary groups, using influence and interpersonal skills, listening, diplomacy and tact to build strong relationships with governments, corporations, partners, donors, volunteers, and all levels of staff.
  • Strong project management experience – working with colleagues across different disciplines to drive activity to completion, delivering against deadlines, and reporting on progress
  • Demonstrated ability to represent the institution at the highest level of professionalism and integrity and effectively interact with government officials and senior executives.


  • Early adopter, trends follower and innovative thinker
  • Detail-oriented
  • Commitment to excellence and guest focus
  • Collaborative in a team environment
  • Positive “can do” attitude
  • Willingness to brainstorm and think creatively
  • Comfortable with the rigor and demands of the fast-paced communications and government relations field.
  • Motivated self-starter with the ability to work independently and bring projects from start to finish.
  • Must be available 24/7 via cell phone (with exception of scheduled vacations) AND able to work flexible hours including early mornings, nights and weekends as necessary

We strongly encourage people of color, LGBTQ+ community, veterans and active duty military, parents, individuals with disabilities, and individuals from all cultural backgrounds to apply. Shedd Aquarium is an equal opportunity employer and welcomes everyone to our team. If you need a reasonable accommodation at any point in the application or interview process, please let us know. In your application, please feel free to select which pronouns you use (For example – she/her/hers, he/him/his, they/them/theirs).

How to Apply

Click here to apply online. You can view our other roles at

Job Categories: Conservation. Job Types: Full-Time.

Job expires in 12 hours.

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