Nancy Palmer has left her post as the executive director of the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild to become the director of government affairs at the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.
Palmer, the first woman to receive the Brewers Association’s F.X. Matt Defense of the Industry Award, started at the Georgia Chamber of Commerce in November. She had served as executive director of the guild since being promoted to the post in July 2014.
“The guild provided me with an incredible opportunity to learn about the industry, learn how to do government affairs, and work at a place where I got to have a real genuine lasting effect, which is very, very rewarding” Palmer told Brewbound.
In her new role, Palmer will work on behalf of the chamber’s more than 47,000 member businesses “in myriad ways and on a myriad of issues.” Specifically, she will serve on the government affairs team, lobbying at the statehouse on issues such as taxation civil judicial reforms.
For Palmer, the timing was right to make a career change and work within a larger organization.
“Working for the guild is exciting and invigorating because you’re really kind of self-directed and you can really dig into issues,” she said. “But also at the same time, it’s lonely. I think any executive director at a state guild can tell you that there are times when it’s lonely. You don’t have coworkers, necessarily, or people who you are regularly bouncing ideas off of. Just on a personal level, I realized that I hadn’t had coworkers in about 10 years, and I should get around to having them.”
Kevin Ryan, CEO of Service Brewing Company and president of the guild’s board of directors, called Palmer “a force” and admitted that the guild has “big shoes to fill.”
“Losing an executive director who won the F.X. Matt award is obviously a huge hit to the guild,” he said
As the guild searches for a replacement for Palmer, Ryan will serve as interim executive director. As part of the hiring process, the guild has formed a hiring company and began posting the job description, which will run through January 12.
“We’ve got over 28 resumes submitted already,” he said.
According to Ryan, the guild is looking for an executive director who can push the guild’s legislative agenda, while also unifying the state’s more than 80 craft breweries.
As for Palmer, she left a lasting impact on the state. She is credited with helping enact a number of legislative reforms, among the biggest is the 2017 passage of Senate Bill 85, which allowed the state’s breweries to sell up to 3,000 barrels annually, directly to consumers, for on-premise consumption in brewery-owned taprooms.
“That piece of legislation, the way that it changed the industry in Georgia, was dramatic,” Palmer said. “I think for anyone involved — craft brewers, wholesalers, retailers and everyone else — the change was overwhelmingly positive.”
Georgia was among the last, if not the last, state in the nation to bar direct sales and instead required a cumbersome and confusing system in which breweries were required to sell tours and offer “free” samples.
Meanwhile, there are still legislative reforms on the table in Georgia. Among the issues facing the guild’s next executive director will be addressing brewers’ inability to self-distribute their products and loosening franchise laws that lock beer companies into contracts with their wholesalers. Those efforts are already in motion as part of House Bill 738, which was introduced at the end of the 2019 legislative session.
“That’s the start of where we begin negotiations with our wholesalers,” Ryan said.
When the second half of the 155th Georgia General Assembly resumes on January 20, 2020, that legislation will still be alive and up for consideration
In the meantime, Georgia brewers may get a boost from a new Department of Revenue rule that would make it easier for the state’s craft brewers to transfer malt beverages between facilities that share 100% ownership. A hearing is set on the rule on December 23.
“That would be a huge game changer,” Palmer said.
Palmer is one of several executive director changes in recent years, including North Carolina, Colorado and Oregon.