In the late 1960s, a group of public-spirited
citizens, under the leadership of Howard Baer, sought to
establish a cultural district, funded by property taxes from
both the City and the County of St. Louis. At that time,
the St. Louis Zoo and Art Museum received tax support only
from the City of St. Louis. The Science Center (formerly
the Museum of Science & Natural History) received no tax
Circuit Judge Thomas F.
McGuire, Howard Baer’s successor as Chairman of the Zoo,
helped the group propose the statute that established the
District. Through the passionate efforts of Mr. Baer, Zoo
Director Marlin Perkins and other prominent St. Louisans,
H.B. 23 was enacted by the Legislature. H.B. 23 authorized
City and County residents to vote on a tax levy of up to 8
cents per $100 assessed valuation for the operation of the
Zoo and the Art Museum and 4 cent per $100 assessed
valuation for the Science Center (Sec. 184.350-.384 R.S.Mo.
1969). As the result of a successful vote, the Metropolitan
Zoological Park and Museum District was created.
Governor Hearnes signing HB 23.
The legislators are from left to right: Larry Lee, Paul
Simon and Charles E. Valier.
The voters of St. Louis City
and County allowed the Botanical Garden to become the
group’s fourth Subdistrict in 1983; the Missouri History
Museum entered the District in 1988.
In 1972 the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan
Zoological Park and Museum District selected Earl Wipfler as
its first Executive Director. He guided the District in
establishing appropriate budgeting and accounting
procedures. The Missouri Supreme Court later approved these
standards and they continue to form the basis for the
District’s current operations. When Mr. Wipfler retired in
1990, Olney F. Otto became the District’s second Executive
Director. Under Mr. Otto’s direction, the District
maintained its financial integrity as it entered the
high-tech age. Olney F. Otto served as the District’s
Executive Director until his death in June 2002. Mr. J.
Patrick Dougherty was hired in 2002 and serves as the
current Executive Director.
District is comprised of a governing body of eight Board
Members. Four members (representing the City of St. Louis)
are appointed by the Mayor. The other four members
(representing St. Louis County) are appointed by the County
Executive. Appointments are on a four-year, rotation basis,
with two (one City and one County) Board members’ terms
expiring January 1st each year.