Leaders of AFTRA have named veteran exec Kim Roberts Hedgpeth national exec director, a post she had held on an interim basis for the past month since the departure of Greg Hessinger to head the Screen Actors Guild.

The national board of directors, meeting in New York and Los Angeles, approved Hedgpeth on Saturday, after a joint working group of AFTRA’s administrative committee and national officers forwarded their unanimous support.

She takes over at a time when AFTRA has been forced to cut costs, including moving its headquarters from New York to Los Angeles. Final approval of the HQ move, via changing the constitution, is expected in July, when the union, which reps 80,000 performers and broadcasters, holds its annual convention.

Hedgpeth joined the AFTRA staff in 1981, serving five years with the New York local. From 1987 to 1992, she was exec director of AFTRA’s San Francisco Local and SAG’s San Francisco branch.

Hedgpeth joined AFTRA’s national staff in 1992 as assistant national exec director, news and broadcast, and became associate national exec director in 1997.

“As we expected, Kim Roberts Hedgpeth stepped into the challenging role of AFTRA national executive director without missing a beat, and with a gentle grace, quiet power and keen intelligence that is the mark of a true leader,” said AFTRA prexy John P. Connolly.

Hedgpeth received her B.A. from Harvard and her J.D. from Georgetown and is admitted to the California and New York State Bars. She also served as director of labor and employee relations for Harvard.

She currently is exec secretary of the Associated Actors & Artistes of America, the umbrella org for performing arts unions in the U.S.

AFTRA also reported its board authorized a strike referendum ballot be sent to members who work on video games produced under the AFTRA Interactive Media Agreement. Ballots will go out today (Monday) and are due back May 12; negotiations are set to resume May 9 with a thrice-extended contract expiration on May 13.

AFTRA and SAG recently held member caucuses in Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. AFTRA members voted 95% to 5% in favor of authorizing a strike in the event bargaining fails.

AFTRA also announced it’s scheduled two measures for voting at its July convention in Los Angeles — eliminating the requirement that the National headquarters be located in Manhattan and reducing the size of the National Board from its current 116 members to 73, plus elected officers.

The Board unanimously approved the recently negotiated Non-Broadcast/Industrial/ Educational contract. The new three-year pact, jointly negotiated with SAG went into effect Sunday.