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NAPEO President & CEO Pat Cleary to Step Down in December 2023

| 4/13/2023

April 13, 2023, Alexandria, VA – The National Association of Professional Employer Organizations (NAPEO) announced today that its President & CEO Pat Cleary will step down at the end of 2023 after more than 12 years at the helm of the association.

During Cleary’s tenure, the professional employer organization (PEO) industry – which provides HR, benefits, and compliance assistance for small and mid-size businesses – has quadrupled in size and industry awareness has increased by 44% in just the past 4 years alone. The association itself also grew in a variety of ways, including member programming and resources, conference attendance and revenue generation, and government affairs efforts at the state and federal levels.

Additionally, Cleary oversaw the launch of several innovative and impactful initiatives. These include a comprehensive industry research effort that now serves as the primary source for data on PEOs; a groundbreaking nationwide promotional campaign to build awareness and visibility for the industry; a wide-ranging series of annual focus groups with small business owners that helps determine industry messaging and research; and C-level educational programming with renowned professors from Stanford University.

Cleary also presided over the watershed moment for the PEO industry: the 2014 passage of the Small Business Efficiency Act, which had been the industry’s top legislative priority for nearly 20 years. It provided federal recognition for PEOs through the establishment of the IRS’s Certified PEO program.

“We are so incredibly grateful for Pat’s service and dedication to the PEO industry over the past 12 years, and we have benefitted tremendously from his leadership. His positive impact on the industry is undeniable and will be felt for many years to come,” said NAPEO Chair Kristen Appleman, senior vice president at ADP TotalSource.

“I have been blessed with an amazing team during my time at NAPEO and I am tremendously proud of the work they have done to serve and grow this industry,” Cleary said. “I plan to keep my hand in the industry – we’ll see what that looks like moving forward.”

A search committee has been formed that represents a cross-section of the NAPEO membership, with diversity in terms of company size, geographic location, gender, and experience. The firm Spencer Stuart will conduct the CEO search, led by Leslie Hortum, the head of Spencer Stuart’s association practice. The search is expected to take 4-6 months to complete.

“Pat certainly leaves big shoes to fill but my commitment to NAPEO membership and staff is to lead this process with integrity and by keeping the future of our industry as our North Star,” said Appleman.



The National Association of Professional Employer Organizations (NAPEO) is The Voice of the PEO IndustryTM. NAPEO’s 250 PEO members provide payroll, benefits, workers’ comp, regulatory compliance assistance, and other HR services to more than 173,000 small and mid-size businesses employing 4 million people. Our members account for more than 90 percent of the industry’s $254 billion in revenue. An additional 250 companies that provide services to PEOs are associate members of NAPEO. For more information, please visit

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Kerry Carruthers