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Listening and observing helped Jim Neill’s career in Washington, and now he’s taking those skills to help an industry more noted for the sense of smell.
Neill became the International Fragrance Association’s North American government affairs vice president last month.
“I’m naturally an observer, and I think the art of listening is underrated; there’s plenty of talking but not a lot of listening that goes on in Washington,” Neill said.
A Michigan native who described himself as a political geek growing up, Neill moved to the District in 1994 to work as the scheduling director for Sen. Spencer Abraham, R-Mich., after working on his campaign.
“I was part of a very elite group of people that many folks in Washington still haven’t quite discovered — I was a scheduler, I controlled the calendar, I helped control access,” Neill said. “[Listening] was transferable to the policy arena, in just being organized, understanding how to prioritize when it comes to keeping a calendar or how to prioritize a hot button issue . . . and how to strategically affect that movement.”
Neill left in 2000 to work on the Republican National Convention and over his career worked on the Senate confirmation of former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson to the Department of Health and Human Services and worked under former Tennessee Sen. Bill Frist at the NRSC. His lobbying experience includes stints at The MWW Group, the National Association of Manufacturers and the Retail Industry Leaders Association, but ultimately Neill said moving to the IFRA was an easy decision.
“The innovation of the industry is outstanding; it’s very exciting,” he said. “This niche industry, which has a small footprint economically on the surface, when you look at the impact it has on every person’s everyday life . . . it’s across the board, and that’s what really attracted me.”
The International Fragrance Association also announced the addition of Suzanne Hartigan as the director of science policy and regulatory affairs on Wednesday. Hartigan most recently worked for the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates.
The IFRA spent $200,000 on lobbying through the first two quarters of 2013, according to federal filings, and spent $370,000 on lobbying last year.