WASHINGTON—After 24 years serving as the spokesperson for the NAB—the longest tenure in the organization’s history, NAB says—Dennis Wharton, executive vice president of Communications, is set to retire on July 1.
Subsequently, the NAB has announced that it will now merge its Communications and Marketing departments into a new Public Affairs department, which will be led by Michelle Lehman.
Wharton joined the NAB in 1996 as vice president, Media Relations, following a 16-year career in journalism, including time as the Washington bureau chief for Variety. He was promoted to senior vice president in 1997, then in 2006 was given the title of executive vice president. During his time at NAB he oversaw the Media Relations, Research and Public Service departments. Wharton is expected to continue to serve as a senior adviser to the NAB.
Wharton notified the NAB Board of Directors on his retirement in an email on May 4. He called his retirement a “bittersweet moment” and said his time at NAB was “the privilege of my professional life,” and that the public service of local broadcast stations, prominently on display during the COVID-19 pandemic, is the thing that makes him most proud. He praised and thanked the NAB Board, local broadcasters, state broadcast association executives and reporters, but gave special gratitude to his colleagues on the NAB Communications team.
“Dennis is a fervent advocate for local broadcasting and his dedication to NAB and the broadcast industry cannot be overstated,” said Gordon Smith, president and CEO of NAB. “Journalists, broadcasters and colleagues alike value his extensive insight on industry-related issues and appreciate the enthusiasm and good humor he brings to his work. We wish Dennis all the best and are fortunate to have him stay on as an adviser to NAB.”
As Wharton exits his role atop the Communication department, the newly formed Public Affairs department will now serve as the outlet for strategic communications, media and digital outreach, marketing and research to support NAB’s advocacy efforts, events and member-focused initiatives.
Michelle Lehman, who has served as executive vice president of Marketing at NAB since 2006, will lead the new department, advancing the association’s brand before key audiences and implementing marketing, advertising and grassroots campaigns to address specific legislature and business challenges facing the broadcast industry, NAB says.
Lehman has also announced that Ann Marie Cumming, senior vice president of Communications, will now serve as the primary spokesperson for the NAB. She will be assisted by Zamir Ahmed, vice president of Media Relations.
Jen Jose, meanwhile, has been tapped as senior vice president of Public Affairs, overseeing all messaging, digital and public service activities for the organization, with assistance from Gagan Nirula, vice president of digital.
Shermaze Ingram, senior vice president of Marketing and Creative Services, will continue to oversee association marketing and event campaigns, as well as the creative services team.
“We have assembled a talented team of professionals to carry our NAB mission and message to the public, whether that is our membership, press or policymakers,” said Smith. “We see public affairs as critical to advancing our advocacy agenda and positioning the association and our events for success.”
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