Citrus Reporter Monthly July 2006

07/01/2006 02:00:00 AM
Elizabeth Ashby, editor

Citrus organizations tap new executives for guidance

By Karen McEver

It’s the same church with the same members, but everyone is sitting in a different pew. At least, that’s the way the three major citrus groups look.

Commission’s new leader

The Florida Citrus Commission, Lakeland, has named Ken Keck as the new executive director. Keck’s appointment follows a wide but quick search for a successor to Dan Gunter, who went to the private sector in April.


Keck emerged as the top choice from a group of five applicants. Keck has been with the Florida Department of Citrus for three years as its general counsel and director of government affairs. He came to the department following a three-year stint as director of legal affairs for Florida Citrus Mutual, Lakeland.

“Keck just rose to the top of the list,” said Andy Taylor, commission chairman. “In addition to having a broad knowledge of citrus, Keck possesses sharp intelligence and integrity beyond reproach.”

The search committee’s swiftness to fill the position was probably a reflection, in part, of the sense of urgency within the industry to tackle looming problems and to have a director in place prior to the commission’s June reorganization. Tipping the scales in favor of Keck is the fact that he is an industry insider and understands the citrus department, the industry at large and the politics that swirl in and around it all.

During the reorganization meeting June 21, Steve Ryan was elected chairman and Cody Estes was elected vice chairman.

Mutual finds a successor

Florida Citrus Mutual has been looking for an executive vice president and chief executive officer since the departure of Andy LaVigne in February.


Mutual’s board of directors, with the help of a search firm, had narrowed the candidates to three and was expected to announce its choice in late May. In a surprising twist, it hired Mike Sparks, a 30-year veteran with the FDOC, on May 25th. The board confirmed Sparks during its annual meeting, and he officially assumed his duties June 15.

“We are elated, excited and confident and extremely please that Mike is making the move to Mutual,” said Jay Clark, interim vice president and chief executive officer. Clark was elected president of the association.

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