New AARP Leader Will Focus on Community Engagement

Jo Ann Jenkins takes over the 37-million-member organization in September.

Jo Ann Jenkins will become president and CEO of the AARP in September 2014.
National Journal
Christopher Snow Hopkins
Add to Briefcase
Christopher Snow Hopkins
May 14, 2014, 8 a.m.

As Jo Ann Jen­kins ex­plains, “Amer­ic­an As­so­ci­ation of Re­tired Per­sons” no longer en­cap­su­lates AARP’s mem­ber­ship.

“Over 40 per­cent of our 37 mil­lion mem­bers are still work­ing, wheth­er they want to work or they have to work,” said the newly ap­poin­ted CEO of the power­ful Wash­ing­ton-based lobby, which jet­tisoned the longer title in 1999.

“A num­ber of them are start­ing small busi­nesses, some are look­ing for jobs that bring real mean­ing and ful­fill­ment to their lives, and many of them simply can­not af­ford to re­tire.”

On Tues­day, AARP an­nounced that Jen­kins, cur­rently the or­gan­iz­a­tion’s ex­ec­ut­ive vice pres­id­ent and chief op­er­at­ing of­ficer, would suc­ceed A. Barry Rand as CEO, start­ing Sept. 1. She will be AARP’s first per­man­ent fe­male chief ex­ec­ut­ive; Rand, who be­came AARP’s first black CEO in 2009, is re­tir­ing.

Jen­kins, who pre­vi­ously served as pres­id­ent of the AARP Found­a­tion, brings to her new job an em­phas­is on fight­ing hun­ger, poverty, isol­a­tion, and un­em­ploy­ment among the or­gan­iz­a­tion’s mem­bers. “I have said to the staff that I want to make sure that everything we do is re­mem­ber­ing that so­cial mis­sion,” she said.

Un­der Jen­kins, AARP will fo­cus in­creas­ingly on com­munity en­gage­ment. Many of AARP’s mem­bers lack ex­per­i­ence us­ing mo­bile devices, but the or­gan­iz­a­tion hopes to boost the di­git­al lit­er­acy of its mem­ber­ship by ex­pand­ing a hands-on edu­ca­tion cur­riculum called AARP TEK.

“AARP is a na­tion­al or­gan­iz­a­tion, but how do we be­come na­tion­wide?” Jen­kins said. “How do we show up in com­munit­ies all across this coun­try?”

A stew­ard of Face­book COO Sheryl Sand­berg’s “Lean In” move­ment, Jen­kins re­cently re­turned from a mem­ber event in Bo­ston, where AARP had its first-ever “lean in” ses­sion with sev­er­al hun­dred wo­men. Jen­kins’s Twit­ter ac­count, @JoAn­n_Jen­kins, is peppered with the “#Lean­In” hash tag.

A nat­ive of Mo­bile, Ala., Jen­kins at­ten­ded nearby Spring Hill Col­lege and then served for 12 years in the Re­agan and George H.W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tions, cul­min­at­ing in a stint as dir­ect­or of the Ag­ri­cul­ture De­part­ment’s Of­fice of Ad­vocacy and En­ter­prise.

After work­ing briefly in the private sec­tor, Jen­kins re­turned to the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment as COO at the Lib­rary of Con­gress, where she re­mained for the next 15 years. Dur­ing her ten­ure, she de­veloped and dir­ec­ted the Na­tion­al Book Fest­iv­al and the Lib­rary of Con­gress Ex­per­i­ence.

“I don’t think it’s any secret: I tell people that my job at the Lib­rary of Con­gress was the best place in Wash­ing­ton to work,” she said. “It’s one of the few places that you can op­er­ate in a non­par­tis­an way. Every­body loves books and lib­rar­ies.”

Jen­kins, 56, was on the verge of re­tire­ment when AARP in­vited her to lead its found­a­tion, where she grew its over­all donor base by 90 per­cent dur­ing her first two years.

A year and a half ago, Rand re­cruited her as COO to build out the AARP’s en­ter­prise-wide strategy. The gregari­ous, self-con­fessed sports fan­at­ic is mar­ried to a re­tired prin­cip­al for the Fair­fax County, Va., Pub­lic Schools and has two adult chil­dren.

“I dare say I am a work­ahol­ic,” she said.

What We're Following See More »
DRAMA ALREADY
Jill Stein Escorted from Debate Site
1 hours ago
THE LATEST
SAUDI ARABIA BILL
Veto Override Scheduled for Wednesday in Senate
3 hours ago
THE LATEST

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said this afternoon that the Senate on Wednesday will take up an override of President Obama's veto of legislation that would allow the families of 9/11 victims to sue the government of Saudi Arabia. "The vote is expected garner the two-thirds majority necessary to override the veto."

Source:
MEDIA SHOULD HOLD TRUMP RESPONSIBLE
Reid Devotes Senate Floor Speech to Trump’s ‘Racism’
4 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Donald Trump is a racist," announced Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid from the Senate floor this afternoon. Reid said all of us are occasionally politically incorrect, but "I don't know of anyone that when that happens doesn't acknowledge it and, if necessary, apologize quickly." But Trump, he added, says things with "full intent to demean and to denigrate." Reid argued that the media isn't holding Trump to account, and should explicitly call him a racist.

ABSENT FROM LIST: GENNIFER FLOWERS
Most Trump Guests Have Military Ties
7 hours ago
THE LATEST
TOP OF MIND
Trending on Google: ‘Why Should Trump Not Be President’
7 hours ago
THE DETAILS
×