When Cal Dooley takes over the reins of the American Chemistry Council this fall, he will become the first former Member of Congress to lead the $118 million-a-year organization.
Dooley, a Democrat and one-time farmer who represented an agricultural central California valley district from 1991 to 2005, has spent the years since Congress leading a food industry group first the Food Products Association and then the Grocery Manufacturers Association after those two groups merged
last year and took the GMA name.
Dooleys move from the GMA has launched fresh speculation about the food groups future and potential merger discussions between GMA and the Food Marketing Institute, which is also searching for a new leader.
It has also brought new focus to Dooley, 54, whom former colleagues and staff members describe as a pragmatic consensus-builder.
By all accounts, Dooleys biggest achievement at GMA was not a big legislative effort but instead overseeing the merger with the former FPA.
His legacy at GMA is he really gets high marks for executing the merger between GMA and the Food Products Association, said Galen Reser, a top in-house lobbyist with PepsiCo, one of GMAs largest members. It has gone as smoothly as one could hope, and Cal gets enormous credit for doing that.
Dooley himself called the merger his most significant achievement.
Dooley would say little about his plans for ACC, a group that traces its roots back to 1872 and includes such members as DuPont and 3M.
It would be presumptuous for me at this point to say that I have a well-developed strategic plan that Im prepared to implement at ACC, he said during an interview late last week. When I took the reins of the Food Products Association, and then working through the merger with GMA, the most important thing you can do is spend a lot of time listening and asking questions. For the first few months, I recognize Im on the low end of the learning curve and the best way to travel up is to work with those people and staff that have a great deal of expertise.
Dooley expects that trade and energy issues will be priorities at ACC. While he was at GMA, the food group launched an aggressive campaign against ethanol interests for creating high food costs. Dooley said that at ACC he wont be on a different side of that issue, but noted that ethanol will not take the same priority.
Lori Denham, who worked for Dooley during most of his Congressional tenure, said her former boss will bring pragmatism and vision to ACC.
He is very strategic and thoughtful, said Denham, now the executive vice president of government affairs for the Retail Industry Leaders Association. Hes somebody that brought a very strong business background when he came to Congress, and he never lost that. He has an ability to really digest complex problems and issues and map out a short-term, mid-term and long-term strategy.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.