AARP appoints first female CEO

AARP has selected Jo Ann Jenkins to serve as the first permanent female chief executive in its history, the group announced Tuesday.

Jenkins will take the reins from longtime CEO A. Barry Rand in September. She currently serves as chief operating officer, a role she began in March 2013 after several years as president of the AARP Foundation.

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In her new position, Jenkins will provide a powerful voice in contentious political debates over Social Security and Medicare.

AARP is the nation's largest and most powerful senior lobby, with more than 37 million members over age 50. The group includes AARP Services, which sells a variety of insurance products.

In dealing with Congress, AARP rejects proposals that would lower benefits for seniors, such as partially privatizing Medicare or recalculating cost-of-living increases in Social Security under a policy known as "chained CPI."

Gail Aldrich, chairwoman of the AARP Board of Directors, praised Jenkins as an "inspirational leader" who is "comfortable operating in the public eye."

"She has demonstrated experience working across party lines that, coupled with her broad business experience, are essential to AARP’s success at this time," Aldrich said in a statement.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Jenkins said she will focus on ensuring that AARP members can thrive in a changing job market.

"Over 40 percent of our members are no longer retired," she told the paper. "So we know that it’s not just about retirement, but it’s about how do we secure a financial future that may or may not include retirement."

She also said she would work to help bring down healthcare costs for seniors.

Prior to her work at AARP, Jenkins worked for 15 years in leadership roles at the Library of Congress.