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NRA names AARP services vet as new CEO

WASHINGTON The National Restaurant Association has named Dawn Sweeney, the head of member services for AARP, as its new president and chief executive officer, effective Oct. 1.

She fills the vacancy left by the resignation in January of Steve Anderson, who left the organization to serve as president and chief executive of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. Anderson is credited with bolstering the NRA's lobbying might and strengthening its infrastructure.

As president and CEO of AARP Services Inc., Sweeney has focused in recent years on membership services for its parent organization, AARP, with responsibility for developing new products and benefits for the 38 million persons over age 50 who belong to the group. The association was formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons.

Her appointment comes as the NRA is striving to add more membership services. Recent fruits of that effort include the availability of free checking accounts for members' employees and reduced credit card processing fees.

“Our industry is really about all about service, and I want to focus on good membership services here, like the annual trade show [in Chicago], ServSafe and other things,” Sweeney told Nation's Restaurant News. “I think there are additional products and services we can develop to help members compete in the marketplace.”

During her  eight years at AARP, Sweeney was responsible for expanding the AARP’s endorsed line of health and wellness offerings, financial and economic security products, and lifestage and personal growth initiatives. Under her leadership, the organization experienced double-digit sales and revenue growth, with annual revenues growing to nearly $600 million.

While at AARP she also served as group executive officer for membership, and helped to launch recruitment campaigns to increase Hispanic and African-American membership.

During a meeting in May, the NRA's board voted to retain an outside consultant to plot the organization's strategic direction for the next five years. That plan would serve as a road map for whomever the association hired as its new CEO, vice chairman Michael Kaufman said at the time. He indicated that the strategic planning would not begin until the vacant post had been filled.

Peter Kilgore, the NRA's chief legal counsel and corporate secretary, has been serving as president and CEO on an interim basis.

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