Engler shakes up NAM with staff reorganization

Six months into his tenure as president of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), former Michigan Gov. John Engler (R) is beginning to leave his footprint on the organization. He unveiled a bevy of staffing changes this month, installing two of his former aides in top positions, creating several new posts atop the current hierarchy and shuffling around many staff members.

Six months into his tenure as president of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), former Michigan Gov. John Engler (R) is beginning to leave his footprint on the organization.

He unveiled a bevy of staffing changes this month, installing two of his former aides in top positions, creating several new posts atop the current hierarchy and shuffling around many staff members.

The reassignments have alarmed some employees, who fear that larger changes, including firings, may be imminent.

“The reorganization chart was sprung on the staff suddenly, and people were moved around and reassigned without any warning or input. We’re waiting to see when the next shoe will drop,” said one NAM employee who spoke on condition of anonymity.

NAM spokesperson Pat Cleary characterized the changes as routine, noting that no one had left since the announcement: “It is typical when a new person comes in that they put their own mark on the organizational structure. What he did was some realignment, moved some of the functions around … he’s organized, streamlined things.”

While it is common for new association chiefs to revamp the staff hierarchy and install former close associates, people close to NAM said the reorganization was more than they had expected. Engler created six new senior vice presidents and combined the media and member-communications departments. He named a longtime aide, LeAnne Wilson, to the newly created position of chief operating officer. Another former aide, Dana Cole, became senior vice president for corporate affairs, a new post.

Two other senior-vice-president positions, one for public policy and the other for finance and administration, remain open. NAM has contracted headhunter firm Korn/Ferry International to fill those positions.

Several NAM employees fear that the creation of high-level positions will lead Engler to thin the ranks below. Other trade group executives have been known to clean house when they arrive. Former Oklahoma Rep. Steve Largent (R) fired half a dozen executives in his first 90 days after taking over at the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association.

Thus far, no one has been fired at NAM, although Marshall Whitenton, vice president for resources, environment and regulation left recently for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. It is unclear whether his departure was related to the reorganization.

Staff changes are just one aspect of Engler’s drive to reshape NAM, which with 12,000 members is the largest industrial trade group in the country. Since taking the helm in October, he has led NAM into new territory, announcing that the organization would work to support President Bush’s judicial nominees, a cause other business groups shunned as too political.

Engler also established NAM’s American Justice Partnership to press for legal reform, an area previously dominated by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Inside NAM, sources say, Engler has taken a more hands-on approach than his predecessor, Jerry Jasinowski, a former Carter administration economist who headed the organization for 15 years and left much of the day-to-day operations to chief lobbyist Mike Baroody. Engler is more likely to get involved, drawing on his own knowledge of taxes, trade and other issues.

Baroody, a one-time favorite for the top job, has been increasingly sidelined, said people close to NAM. He has been a less frequent attendee at internal meetings and his name was conspicuously left off an organizational chart documenting the new staff positions, two sources said. He had reportedly been a contender to head the American Chemistry Council, a job that ultimately went to former National Mining Association chief Jack Gerard.

Baroody did not return several calls for comment.

The reorganization altered the prospects of several NAM staff members. Recently hired Beth Solomon was promoted within the newly merged communications department. Laura Narvaiz, formerly vice president of communications and media relations, was moved to a less prestigious position handling press for NAM’s Manufacturing Institute.

Bob Cunningham, vice president of human resources, had a new senior-vice-president position created above him, putting him in jeopardy, one source said. Fred Nichols, vice president for government and political affairs, was passed over for the newly created top policy spot, several sources close to NAM said.