SAG's David White Becomes Sole Exec Director of SAG-AFTRA (Exclusive)

David White

Co-National Executive Director and former AFTRA NED Kim Roberts Hedgpeth departs, leaving White as sole NED of the new union – and underscoring the predominance of SAG staff in the merged union’s executive ranks.

Less than three weeks after SAG and AFTRA merged, SAG-AFTRA co-national executive director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth is stepping down, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. The departure of the former AFTRA NED makes her SAG counterpart, David White, the sole national executive director of the merged union.

Hedgpeth’s exit is effective April 30.

“David White is going to be a great leader for SAG-AFTRA,” Hedgpeth told THR. “I’m very pleased for the members and staff.”

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White, a graduate of Stanford Law School and a Rhodes Scholar, served as SAG general counsel from 2002-06 and NED from 2009 until the merger. Hedgpeth is a graduate of Harvard University and Georgetown University Law Center. She worked for AFTRA from 1981 until the merger, save for a three-year period from 1998-2001.

Hedgpeth said she will turn her attention to “preserving and protecting my late father’s musical legacy” before engaging in other professional pursuits. Her father, composer Howard A. Roberts, died in March 2011.

White commended Hedgpeth for her “tireless effort and many contributions to performers over the years.” SAG-AFTRA co-president (and former AFTRA president) Roberta Reardon said, “Kim is in a league of her own (and) an inspiration to me and everyone around her.” Co-president Ken Howard called Hedgpeth “a strong voice and committed activist.”

Although it occurred sooner than might have been expected, White’s emergence as sole national executive director of the merged union is not an anomaly. A close look at a list of SAG-AFTRA executive staff shows that almost every top-level department is run by a former SAG staffer or by co-equal SAG and AFTRA veterans.

Thus, NED White, assistant NED for communications Pam Greenwalt, senior adviser John McGuire, chief financial officer Arianna Ozzanto, chief information officer Erin Griffin, assistant NED for locals Linda Dowell and assistant NED for awards Kathy Connell are all former SAG executives.

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In contrast, the only former AFTRA executives at the top without a parallel SAG appointment are associate NED Mathis Dunn, along with two assistant NEDs for areas where AFTRA had sole jurisdiction: Mary Cavallaro (news & broadcast) and Randall Himes (sound recordings).

Other top staff are the assistant NEDs of contracts Ray Rodriguez (formerly SAG) and Joan Halpern Weise (AFTRA) and the assistant NEDs for organizing (Phillip Denniston, AFTRA) and for industry relations (Deborah Skelly, SAG).

The legal function is a somewhat special case. Chief administrative officer/general counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, formerly SAG’s GC, has a more senior title than assistant NED/chief labor counsel Thomas Carpenter, formerly AFTRA’s GC. However, both of them report directly to White, as do the other executive staff.

In the elected leadership, most positions draw on coordinate SAG and AFTRA officers and board members. A key exception is the No. 2 officer position – the executive vp – which is held by former SAG leader Ned Vaughn. He and co-secretary-treasurer Amy Aquino originated the merger campaign in 2008 with the formation of their Unite for Strength slate.

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Twitter: @jhandel