Ripon Society Names Capitol Hill Veteran James Conzelman as its New President and Chief Executive Officer

WASHINGTON, DC — The Ripon Society announced today that Capitol Hill veteran James K. Conzelman has been named the new President and Chief Executive Officer of the centrist Republican public policy organization.

“I’ve known Jim for a long time, and we couldn’t be happier to have him on board,” stated former Congressman Bill Frenzel, the Chairman Emeritus of the Ripon Society.  “He knows Washington, understands politics, and knows the policymaking process inside and out.  Just as important, he also knows that to get anything done in this town, you’ve got to be respected on both sides of the aisle.  Jim has earned that respect over the course of his career, and we look forward to having him take the reins of our organization.”

Conzelman has more than three decades of experience on Capitol Hill, including 25 years as the Chief of Staff to former Congressman Michael G. Oxley (R-OH).  Conzelman served not only in this capacity, but also had the responsibility as Counselor to the House Financial Services Committee where Oxley served as Chairman.  Earlier in his career, Conzelman also served as a staff assistant in the Congressional Liaison Office for President Bush’s and President Reagan’s Inaugural Committees, and received an appointment to the Ford White House as staff assistant to the President for speech writing, research and advance.  Previously, Conzelman served on the Select Committee on Assassinations Reinvestigating the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

A graduate of Montana State University and Harvard University’s Program for Senior Managers in Government, Conzelman said he was pleased to be joining the Ripon Society as its new President.

“I am looking forward to working with the many talented people and organizations associated with the Ripon Society,” Conzelman stated.  “At a time when political party extremes are dominating important policy conversations, I believe Ripon must amplify the voice of reasoned thought and discussion.  I intend to lead with that central objective in mind.”

Conzelman begins his position on October 16.  As the new President of the Ripon Society, Conzelman will be replacing Richard S. Kessler, who will become President Emeritus of the organization.

“I have had the privilege of knowing Jim for over two decades,” Kessler stated.  “During that time he has impressed me with his political acumen, his earnest desire to broaden the Republican Party through thoughtful debate, and most importantly his dedication to help those less fortunate through his charitable endeavors. With Jim’s leadership Ripon will reach new heights and the entire Ripon family stands ready to assist his efforts.”

Kessler’s involvement with the Ripon Society dates back to 1980, when, after serving on President Reagan’s Inaugural Committee, he was named Executive Director of the organization.  In this position, Kessler oversaw the development of the Congressional Advisory Board, the Rough Rider Awards Dinner, and the rejuvenation of The Ripon Forum, the Society’s journal of thought and opinion.  Kessler has served as President of the Ripon Society since 2004.

Frenzel praised Kessler for his many contributions and his service to the group.

“Centrist Republicanism has had its ups and downs over the years,” Frenzel observed.  “So has the Ripon Society.  Through the peaks and valleys, Rick Kessler has been the driving force that has held it all together.  The organization owes him a lot, and we’ll forever be grateful for all the work he has done.  We also look forward to his ongoing contributions as a member of our Board.”

In assuming day-to-day management of the Ripon Society, Conzelman will also be taking over for George McNeill, who has served as Chief Administrative Officer of the organization since 2004.  McNeill, a Vermont resident who has spent the past five years commuting to the Ripon Society’s office in Washington, has announced that he is retiring.

“Helping Ripon grow in both influence and membership has been an exciting and rewarding experience,” McNeill stated.  “Our magazine, The Ripon Forum, and our Policy Dialogue Series of thoughtful political debate has earned Ripon the title of ‘The Home of Ideas,’ and I have been privileged to be a part of this experience.”

Frenzel commended McNeill for his work.

“Management has its privileges,” Frenzel remarked.  “One of those privileges is being able to take pride in a job well done.  In that regard, George has a lot to be proud of.  Under his leadership, the Ripon Society has not only played a key role in the public policy debate, but has become an important voice for centrist Republicans in the debate over the future of the GOP.   We are sorry to see him go, and wish him all the best.”

The Ripon Society is a centrist Republican public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was founded in 1854 — Ripon, Wisconsin.

One of the main goals of the Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s past success.  These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is not just smaller, but smarter and more accountable to the people.

For more information on the Ripon Society, please visit the organization’s website at