WASHINGTON, D.C., May 30—Veteran public relations counselor Bill Novelli has been named executive director and chief executive officer of the American Association of Retired Persons, one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Washington. Novelli, co-founder of top five public relations firm Porter Novelli, has devoted the last several years to the non-profit sector, working on a variety of social marketing issues, and joined AARP 17 months ago as associate executive director for public affairs.

According to an AARP press release, the search for a replacement for current executive director Horace Deets, was conducted with the assistance of executive search firm Korn/Ferry International and included candidates from both outside and within the organization. But there had been speculation since Novelli joined the organization that he was next in line for the top job.

“The Board felt strongly that we needed another leader who understands and is committed to our strategic vision and has an unwavering belief in our social mission. We are confident that Bill is just the person to advance that vision,” says Tess Canja, the group’s president.

Before joining AARP, Novelli served as executive vice president of CARE, the international relief and development organization, and as president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.  

“AARP is a strong, growing organization, and one with enormous potential to serve our 35 million members and all of society,” he says. “We have the opportunity to do great things for our members, for all older people and for all generations.”
Fortune magazine recently ranked AARP number two on its Power 25 list of the most influential lobbying groups in Washington, D.C., second only to the National Rifle Association. AARP had previously been number one.