The National Restaurant Association is in the middle of a restructure, leaving it and without former vice president of health and safety regulatory affairs, Donna Garren, and two other executives.
Garren joined the association in April 2005, after serving as vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs for the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association for six years.
Garren, along with senior vice president of government affairs and public policy John Gay, and vice president of state relations Kelly Benedetti, left the NRA in early April.
The association’s new plan involves four key areas under public affairs: jobs and careers, food and healthy living, entrepreneurship and profitability, and sustainability. Food safety activities fall into the food and healthy living division.
“When it comes to food safety, which is vital in the strategic plan, all of the positions changed,” said Sue Hensley, senior vice president of communications for the association. “For those who were affected, many of the staff were encouraged to apply for new positions, but some chose not to.”
The association is still seeking directors for the four areas.
“As far as having expertise in quality assurance and food safety, that director of food and healthy living will have it,” Hensley said.
The directors will work with Beth Johnson, executive vice president of public affairs, who was hired in late 2008 to help develop and implement the new structure. Johnson was previously acting undersecretary for food safety for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She also was deputy chief of staff and senior advisor in at USDA, which she joined in 2002.
“Rather than being organized like we were, with federal regulations, state regulations, health, safety and regulatory affairs, now it’s going to be these four areas, organized around those issues,” Hensley said.
Dan Roehl followed in Johnson’s footsteps, leaving the USDA for a position with the association. He joined in April as public affairs specialist, and will coordinate with Johnson.
In the meantime, while positions are being filled, Hensley said Matthew Brickey, imperatives manager for sustainability and sociability and food and healthy living, is helping in food safety areas.
“Now, as we’re trying to fill those director roles, he’s putting a share of his time in food and healthy living,” Hensley said.
Those who remain with the association, but in different roles, are:
Brendan Flanagan, formerly a federal lobbyist, is director of government affairs;
Sheila Weiss, former director of nutrition policy, is a consultant for food and healthy living and nutrition;
Tim Ehlert, former manager of state relations, is policy analyst for labor and workforce issues;
Michelle Reinke, a former lobbyist, is a policy analyst of tax and profitability;
Ellen Mize, former administrative assistant for government affairs and public policy, is an administrative assistant for public affairs;
Amanda Rieter, former manager of state relations, is associate director of state strategy and policy; and
Renee Theragood, formerly in the state relations department, is state coordinator.
In March, the association brought on David Gilbert in a new position as chief operating officer. He is Chicago-based as executive director of NRA Solutions, the association’s products, services and convention group, which manages its ServSafe, ProStart, ManageFirst and other brands.
Hensley said part of the reason for the restructure was the unification of the association and the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation.
“We had to change again because when we united with NRAEF, we added a large number of products and services to the organization’s portfolio,” Hensley said.
Hensley said the new structure actually creates more jobs than it eliminates, and the association is still working to fill them.