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Gay, Benedetti Leave Restaurant Trade Group

The National Restaurant Association’s chief lobbyist, John Gay, and vice president of state and industry relations, Kelly Benedetti, have left the trade group as it undergoes a complete reorganization.

Gay, a Republican who joined the NRA in 2005, has been a lobbyist in the hospitality industry for more than 10 years.

Prior to joining the NRA, Gay served as a senior lobbyist at the International Franchise Association and the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

Benedetti joined the association in 2004 from the Irrigation Association.

The departures are part of the association’s decision to no longer separate its team of more than 20 lobbyists into those who handle federal issues and those who concentrate on state concerns. Instead, the lobby team will cover four issues areas: jobs and careers, sustainability, profitability, and food and healthy living.

While employees in the government relations division have been encouraged to reapply for the newly created positions, NRA spokeswoman Sue Hensley said Gay and Benedetti are looking at other opportunities outside the NRA. Their last day was April 3.

The trade group decided to undergo a review of operations after Dawn Sweeney joined the NRA as its CEO in July 2007. The realignment is still under way.

So far, the NRA has made one outside hire for its government relations team: Dan Roehl, who joins as a public affairs specialist.

Brendan Flanagan, vice president of federal relations, and a yet-to-be-named vice president of political affairs, will serve as the association’s lead lobbyists and political strategists, according to an NRA memo.

The memo adds: “In addition, because we have not finalized the search for the political affairs team, Ned Monroe (VP political affairs), Casey Stanford (manager, political affairs) and Meredith Nethercutt (manager, state relations and grassroots) have agreed to stay on for at least four more weeks.—

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