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    New England Aquarium names interim CEO

    Visitors waited in line at the New England Aquarium in 2015.
    Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff
    Visitors in line at the New England Aquarium in 2015.

    The New England Aquarium on Monday named an interim chief executive, who will take the reins of the waterfront tourist destination and conservation institute on April 1.

    Maliz Beams, a longtime financial sector executive and a board member at the aquarium, will replace Nigella Hillgarth. Hillgarth announced her resignation in January, less than three years into the role, and is leaving for a research position at the University of Washington.

    Beams has been on the aquarium’s board since 2010. But her background is more rooted in finance than science. She is a former chief executive of retirement savings company Voya Financial, and has also held leadership positions with American Express and Citibank.

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    At the aquarium, Beams will lead an institution that has been a central player in development discussions in downtown Boston.

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    Aquarium officials have been locked in a sometimes tense debate over planned construction of the adjacent Boston Harbor Garage, where developer Don Chiofaro has proposed a skyscraper. The officials have called for the building to be smaller than originally proposed and expressed concerns that it could block waterfront access. Meanwhile, the aquarium also intends to make big changes on its own property, which would include a new park along the harbor and an expansion of its main building.

    In January, Donna Hazard the chair of the aquarium’s board of trustees, said the search for a permanent replacement for Hillgarth would involve a “national if not international” recruiting hunt.

    Adam Vaccaro can be reached at adam.vaccaro@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamtvaccaro.