Russo speaks at the opening session of the 2019 NAFA I&E. - Photo by Andy Lundin

Russo speaks at the opening session of the 2019 NAFA I&E.

Photo by Andy Lundin

Phillip Russo abruptly left his role as chief executive of the NAFA Fleet Management Association last week after 14 years in the leading staff role.

Bill Schankel has been named interim CEO, and NAFA's board of directors has begun its search for Russo's replacement. Schankel had been serving as chief of staff and operations for the association.

"I have loved my time with NAFA," Russo said in a NAFA release. "I am eagerly and excitedly pursuing new opportunities."

Russo left NAFA on Aug. 2 with nearly five months left on his contract. He informed Patti Earley, NAFA president and fleet fueling operations supervisor with Florida Power & Light, about his decision last week in an email.

"Phil is well-respected and appreciated by the fleet management community," Earley said. "He has left an indelible mark on the association. We thank him for his service and wish him well in his new ventures."

Several NAFA board members had been communicating with Russo prior his departure, and the two sides had agreed to "an exit strategy," according to a source familiar with the situation.

During Russo's tenure, NAFA implemented a branding update, revision of its bylaws, growth in sponsorships of its annual Institute & Expo event, increase in reserve funds, and increase in member engagement through various initiatives, according to the organization. The member engagement initiatives included a fleet sustainability credential, micro-certificate exam, government affairs activities, and an online community initiative.

In April, Russo spoke to Automotive Fleet about the changes to the 2019 NAFA I&E, including a new mobility day. In June, the association partnered with Automotive Fleet's Global Fleet Conference in Miami.

Bill Elliott, executive director of the Automotive Fleet & Leasing Association, wished Russo well.

"We wish Phil the best in his future and thank him for his long tenured service to the fleet industry," Elliott said. "As a fellow association professional, I have always appreciated Phil's commitment to strengthening the fleet community and profession."

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