Susan Neely (Photo: ACLI) Susan Neely (Photo: ACLI)

The board of the American Council of Life Insurers has picked Susan Neely, a longtime association executive who helped start the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, to be its next president.

Neely will succeed Dirk Kempthorne as the head of the life insurer group this summer, the ACLI announced today.

(Related: ACLI: Dirk Kempthorne to Succeed Keating)

The ACLI is a Washington-based group that represents an industry that generates about $986 billion in premium and annuity consideration payments per year and manages about $6.8 trillion in assets.

Kempthorne, the outgoing ACLI president, previously had served as the mayor of Boise, Idaho; as a U.S. senator from Idaho; and as head of the U.S. Department of the Interior under former President George W. Bush.

Kempthorne took over at the ACLI aboard as the life insurance industry was just starting to recover from the effects of the Great Recession that started in 2008, and to understand how the Obama administration might implement the Dodd-Frank Act.

Neely, the incoming president, has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Iowa and a master’s degree in public administration from Drake University, according to her LinkedIn entry.

Early on, she was the press secretary and campaign governor for Terry Branstad, the governor of Iowa.

From 1994 through 1996, she was senior vice president of public affairs at the Health Insurance Association of America, one of the two health insurer trade groups that later merged to form America’s Health Insurance Plans.

From November 2001 through 2005, she joined the government’s response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. She helped set up the Department of Homeland Security, then spent two years working for the newborn department as its assistant secretary for public affairs.

From 2005 through the present, Neely has been president of the American Beverage Association.

She serves on the board of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. She is a past chair of the American Society of Association Executives.

Mark Mullin, the president of Transamerica and the ACLI board chair, said in a statement that Neely is the right person to lead the ACLI effort to help American families obtain financial and retirement security.

“Susan is a recognized and proven strategic leader who understands the intersection of politics and business and the importance and impact of informed public policy advocacy,” Mullin said.

Neely said the ACLI’s successes in state, federal and international forums have placed the association and its members in a strong position to lead the public policy debate on efforts to help Americans obtain long-term financial peace of mind.

— Read Cathy Weatherford to Retire From Top IRI Post on ThinkAdvisor.

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