Gary Lytle is the kind of lobbyist whose informal “references” include a bipartisan duo of former members of Congress.
Reps. David Bonior, D-Mich., and Mike Oxley, R-Ohio, to be precise.
So it is a big deal that Lytle, a fixture on the K Street scene for decades, is taking his name off his firm’s door and beginning a transition out of the business.
Lytle — of Clark Lytle Geduldig Cranford — is not retiring and plans to stay engaged as a mentor to the new generation of lobbyists at the firm and a counselor to his clients.
But the firm’s rebranding as Clark Geduldig Cranford & Nielsen on Thursday will reflect the fact that Lytle is stepping back, working part time, traveling more.
“In time, all things change,” Lytle said. “It’s time to step aside and give the other guys a little more credit.”
Lytle said he plans to spend summers in his native Michigan, take more jaunts to Florida where he has a home, golf more and hit the fundraising scene downtown a lot less. He is also serving as vice chairman of the Prevent Cancer Foundation. (His first wife died of ovarian cancer.)
“I’m not doing dinners like I used to, getting up at 4 a.m. and running to hell and gone,” he said.
But he isn’t ready yet to end a career that started back with Michigan Bell, which sent him to Washington, D.C., in the early 1980s.
He later served as the head of the Ameritech office here, ran the U.S. Telecom Association and ultimately teamed up with his longtime pal Steve Clark, once with Ohio Bell.
Shortly after, Lytle left to head the D.C. office of Qwest Communications. He returned to the firm six years ago, and in that time the shop's lobbying revenue has grown from under $1 million to $5 million.
“We started out with humble beginnings and very few clients,” Lytle said. “We had a lot of fun and hustled and here we are.”
The firm’s clients include MasterCard, Boeing, Microsoft, Koch Industries and the Financial Services Roundtable.
“I've taken almost every step of my professional career alongside Gary Lytle,” Clark said. “I’m so proud to have shared so much of my life with him.”
Lytle said that because he worked in-house for so many years, he had a good idea of what clients want in a firm: nimble, quick, low overhead, Hill contacts. Clark and Lytle added partners Sam Geduldig, a one-time House GOP leadership aide; Jay Cranford, a former policy aide to Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio; and Mike Nielsen, an ex-aide to Republicans on the Senate Banking Committee, whose name is going on the door.
Former Rep. Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio, who chaired the House Republican Conference, is also affiliated with the firm.
Bonior said he has known Lytle since the two were in sixth grade at St. Veronica’s in East Detroit, Mich. They went to high school together, too, and worked together as lawmaker and lobbyist on such matters as the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
“He is philosophically different from where I am, but we’ve reached consensus. He’s very easy to work with,” Bonior said. “He’s really well liked by people of all political persuasions, and he’s able to use that likability to bridge gaps and get things done. ... I’m sure he has a lot to offer in his new role.”
Oxley, who met Lytle through Clark, called Lytle a straight shooter who is known for reliable information and solid contacts, especially with stalwarts of the Michigan delegation. “He was kind of the epitome of what a good lobbyist ought to be,” said Oxley, who is now of counsel with Baker Hostetler. “There are very few people that have his sterling reputation. He’s getting old, like me. I think he’s got it figured out.”
Lytle, who isn’t one to discuss matters of age, says he won’t be able to keep out of the Washington scene entirely.
“I always tell people I meet, we do better than you think,” he said. “Legislators on both sides of the aisle, they work their brains off. ... I really get a kick out of politics. That’s why I’ve been hanging in there with it.”