The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) announced Tuesday that Dennis Wharton, Executive Vice President of Communications, is retiring effective July 1. Wharton, 24-year veteran of the association, is the longest-serving spokesman in the organization’s history. He will continue as a senior adviser, according to President/CEO Gordon Smith. Upon his retirement, Ann Marie Cumming, Senior Vice President of Communications, will be the primary spokesperson of the organization.
“Dennis is a fervent advocate for local broadcasting and his dedication to NAB and the broadcast industry cannot be overstated,” said Smith. “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.”
Wharton joined NAB in 1996 as vice president, Media Relations and subsequently was promoted to senior vice president in 1997, and executive vice president in 2006. Wharton joined NAB after a 16-year journalism career in Ohio and as Washington bureau chief for Variety.
In an e-mail to the NAB Board of Directors Monday night, Wharton called his retirement a “bittersweet moment” and described his tenure at NAB as “the privilege of my professional life.” Wharton wrote that he has been “in the catbird seat for countless moments in broadcast history” over 24 years, including the launch of HDTV, radio performance royalty fights, “wardrobe malfunctions,” and media consolidation battles. He said he is most proud of the public service of local broadcast stations, which has been on prominent display during the COVID-19 crisis.
The broadcast trade group also plans to merge the Communications and Marketing Departments into a new Public Affairs Department that will be led by NAB’s Michelle Lehman. The Public Affairs department will serve to positively position NAB and the broadcast industry through strategic communications, media and digital outreach, marketing and research to support the association’s advocacy efforts, events and member-focused initiatives.
Lehman has been executive vice president of Marketing since joining NAB in 2006. In her new role, Lehman will be responsible for NAB’s Media Relations, Public Service and Research divisions. Lehman began her career on Capitol Hill serving as press secretary for former Rep. Bob Goodlatte (VA) and then for the U.S. Senate Homeland Security Committee, under the leadership of former Ranking Member Sen. Fred Thompson (TN). She was vice president of public affairs and chief spokesperson for the National Beer Wholesalers Association before joining NAB.
In Cumming’s new role, she will be assisted by Zamir Ahmed, vice president of Media Relations, who has been with NAB since 2011. Cumming first joined NAB in 1994 from Capitol Hill. She will oversee Media Relations and the Research division.