Michelle Nunn named as head of Atlanta-based CARE

Credit: Jim Galloway

Credit: Jim Galloway

Former U.S. senate candidate Michelle Nunn has been named president and CEO of CARE USA, the 70-year-old, Atlanta-based relief agency, the organization announced Sunday.

Nunn replaces Helene Gayle, who is stepping down after nearly a decade at the helm of an organization that reported a 90-country reach and annual operating revenues of $410 million in 2013.

“I had long admired CARE’s work as a student of philanthropy and of organizations that are making a difference,” Nunn said in a brief telephone interview this afternoon. “I’m really thrilled and excited by this chapter.”

As a first-time Democratic candidate, Nunn surprised many with her fund-raising ability and stage presence last year, but she has kept a low profile since her November defeat at the hands of Republican David Perdue.

Nunn’s new job appears to be an ideal fit. Prior to her U.S. Senate run, she headed up the Atlanta-based Points of Light Foundation, a volunteer networking agency founded by former President George H.W. Bush.

The daughter of former U.S. senator Sam Nunn also offers CARE an opportunity to raise a hometown silhouette that is decidedly low-key, despite the agency’s storied history as the provider of (now trademarked) “CARE packages” to a post-World War II Europe.

“My grandmother was Houston County’s first Girl Scout troop leader, and one of her most salient memories was their troop putting together money for CARE packages to send to a little girl in France,” Nunn said.

Here's a 2013 video CARE produced to mark its 20th year in Atlanta:

In a press release, Paul Jansen, chairman of CARE USA’s board, said Nunn was chosen after a protracted global search.

“Michelle is an innovative, dynamic leader whose passion for international social justice issues and ability to energize people around a mission will help CARE connect more Americans to the movement to end extreme poverty,” Jansen said.

Nunn already had connections to the organization. “I traveled to Zimbabwe and Zambia on a CARE trip a number of years ago,” she said.

Also, Kent Alexander, an Atlanta attorney who was Nunn’s chief strategist in her Senate campaign, once served as CARE USA’s general counsel.

One legacy of Helene Gayle, whom Nunn will replace, is an international focus on women and girls in its aid. Nunn indicated this is a direction she’ll continue.

“CARE has this terrific, aspirational work around eradicating extreme poverty. And the way they are looking to do that is by focusing on women and girls in poor communities,” Nunn said. “I think that strategy is going to be critical to the continued work of CARE.”

In political terms, one thing to note about Nunn’s new job, aside from its high profile, is that it keeps her and her family in Atlanta. And would allow her to add significant international experience to her resume, should she make another run at elected office.

Nunn demurred when asked if she contemplated a return to politics. “This is CARE’s day,” she said. “This is going to be CARE’s chapter.”