The Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) last week named a lobbyist to its top administrative post in an attempt to jump-start its image on Capitol Hill.

Denise A. Bode, 36, is the IPAA's new president, replacing Harold B. Scoggins Jr., 54, who resigned in July because of disputes with IPAA Chairman C. Paul Hilliard and charges of ineffectiveness by association members.

A former tax counsel for Sen. David L. Boren (D-Okla.), Bode will try to shift the focus of the association -- whose membership declined during the 1980s in the face of falling oil prices and reduced tax incentives for domestic producers -- from internal management to external lobbying. Since 1986, membership has fallen 40 percent to 4,500 members.

"They wanted someone that they felt could be a go-getter," Bode said. "It's time {for the IPAA} to get back to the Hill, back to the administration."

Like Scoggins and his predecessor, Lloyd N. Unsell, Bode is a Oklahoma native with strong ties to that state's oil-producing industry. But while Scoggins and Unsell ran the IPAA after decades of working within the group, Bode comes to the post from the outside.

Her connections with legislators in Oklahoma and other oil-producing states and her knowledge of energy issues give her the necessary armor to lead the association's charge on Capitol Hill.

"Within the Beltway, at least, she is an insider," said John H. Jennrich, editor of Washington-based Natural Gas Weekly. "I think that's what the IPAA wanted -- some Washington expertise."

Boren's legislative director, Cody Graves, who succeeded Bode in the senator's office, described her as hard-working, energetic and very well-informed.

"There are access lobbyists and substance lobbyists," Graves said. "Denise not only has tremendous access to members {of Congress}, she is a substantive person who could always sit in on the technical stuff" of drafting legislation.

Bode began working for Boren in 1976, when he was governor of Oklahoma, and followed him to Washington in 1978 when he was elected to the Senate. She attended graduate school at night for eight years, earning a law degree from George Mason University in 1982 and a master of law degree in taxation from Georgetown University in 1984.

After passing the Oklahoma bar, Bode decided to stay in Washington to found the lobbying firm Gold and Liebengood Inc. with other former Hill staffers, instead of working for a law firm.

"I liked the policy-making part," Bode said. "I think the practice of law would be dull after doing this."

Bode said she had not begun a job search when IPAA offered her the position, though she had been considering leaving since her firm was sold to the public relations firm Burson-Marsteller Inc. in January. She said she took the job "because of love for the issues and the 'making a difference' stuff."

Graves said the IPAA, known as a staid, old-boy network of post-World War II oil drillers, demonstrated its desire to change by picking a young woman president. "You've got a whole lot of guys who started in the business 30 years ago -- there haven't been many new people," Graves said. "I think the directors and members wanted new blood more than anything else."

Bode said rising oil prices because of the Persian Gulf crisis mean a time of change -- but not necessarily opportunity -- for domestic producers. "We've got people over there {in the Persian Gulf} ready to die for oil," Bode said. "And it all wouldn't be necessary if we had been looking towards energy development domestically."

She said she also hopes to improve the public's perception of domestic drillers, who have declined in number since the early 1980s.

"The people who have survived since 1985 are very down-to-earth, low-key, smart business people," she said. "And that's the image I'm going to try and project."