2013-2014 USPB Executive Committee
One of the favorite “philosophers” of outgoing United States Potato Board CEO Tim O’Conner is former Major League baseball player Yogi Berra for his ability to turn a phrase. During O’Conner’s final address to the board at the USPB Annual Meeting at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo., in March, he told board members that he added Dr. Seuss on his list of inspirational people, who once adroitly said, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
The changing of the guard at the USPB marks just one of the changes the USPB has been going through recently—which includes moving offices in downtown Denver and expanding the Executive and Administrative Committees.
The USPB announced in early March, prior to the Annual Meeting, O’Conner accepted an offer to lead a new marketing agency dedicated to the Mexican avocado industry, called Avocados from Mexico. He took the helm April 1.
O’Conner titled his “conversation” with growers at the Annual Meeting—which coincided with his 14th anniversary at the USPB—“Final Thoughts.” He made very clear to the board that when he was approached by the avocado industry, he wasn’t looking for another job.
“I had a great one,” he says. “My track record is longevity.”
He says he wasn’t looking for a job 14 years ago when he was approached by the USPB—after having served the beef industry for 12 years—just like he wasn’t looking for another opportunity this time.
But the opportunity was too good to pass up.
“I’m going because it is the next great opportunity, and I couldn’t pass it up.”
He states that he feels very good about the team of full-time staff, agencies and contractors, all who add up to about 200 people, who are still very much a part of the board.
He says that in the scope of things, this is a pretty small industry.
“If this industry is fighting in a foxhole, your chances of success are almost zero,” he says. “Working together like we are, our chances of success are really high. I feel very good about the state of the industry from that perspective.”
O’Conner received a standing ovation at the conclusion of his remarks.
2012–2013 USPB Chair Sid Staunton goes through roll call while an interpreter signs the names for a deaf reporter
2013–2014 USPB Chair Rob Davis of Connell, Wash., addresses the board as the newest chair, succeeding Sid Staunton of Tulelake, Calif. The USPB Summer Meeting will take place at The Coeur d’Alene Resort in August.
Outgoing USPB chairman Sid Staunton, from Tulelake, Calif., reported that the Executive Committee has been considering changing the structure of the board to better represent growers. He also said that the Executive Committee has been looking at further support of the Alliance for Potato Research and Education (APRE), formed two to three years ago in order to provide research that better represents the image of frozen potato products.
Because of the immediate need for more research, he reported that the Executive Committee took surplus from this year’s budget and pledged that amount to APRE—raising their commitment to the million-dollar level. As a result, two additional seats have been added to the APRE board—one USPB board member (Rob Davis from Connell, Wash.), and one industry rep (Dan Moss from Rupert, Idaho).
As of March 25, USPB staff moved their office in downtown Denver to another downtown location that was a “step up” in work environment according to Staunton, and at a reduced cost to the board.
Staunton also reported that the search for a new CEO is now under way. The Executive Committee hired a professional executive search consultant firm—Mixtec Group, LLC, based out of Pasadena, Calif.—to conduct the search for the CEO. The search will take roughly 12–16 weeks. A search committee will vet the candidates, and the Executive Committee will make the final determination, with an anticipated hire date by July 1.
One slight change was the format at the Annual Meeting for the Domestic Marketing and International Marketing Committees. Typically, each report has lasted about an hour to an hour and a half. Staunton pointed out that they’ve noticed growers slowly “drifting off” during the reports. The USPB switched it up a bit by dividing both reports into four to five break-out sessions.
Two missing staff from the reports included Domestic Marketing Committee VP Kathleen Triou, who was recovering from a skiing accident, and International Marketing (Dehy) Manager Teresa “T.K.” Kuwahara, who was recovering from a hit-and-run accident in downtown Denver.
During the luncheon, National Geographic filmmaker/adventurer/author Jon Bowermaster discussed his “Ocean’s Eight” project, a 10-year expedition by sea kayak that took his teams to many places on the globe over the course of a decade, including the Aleutian Islands, Chili, Tasmania and Antarctica.
On Friday, National Potato Council Executive VP and CEO John Keeling talked about the effects of the 2012 presidential election and the current, uncompromising atmosphere that permeates inside the Washington Beltway. United Potato Growers of America CEO Jerry Wright re-emphasized the same points he had made during the North American Potato Business Summit the first day of the POTATO EXPO in Las Vegas in January—that yields continue to creep up while demand continues to creep downward.
He shared some advice, saying that in his experience, “People do not change unless the pain of staying where they are is greater than the pain of changing.” With each item of data showing the dire situation the U.S. potato industry is in, he continually posed the question, “Is it painful enough?”
At the conclusion of the Annual Meeting, the board unanimously voted to expand the Administrative and Executive Committees. They also approved the three-cent assessment, the FY2012–16 Long Range Plan and the FY2014 budget and reaffirmed the mission statement.
Rob Davis of Connell, Wash., was elected new USPB Chairman. The USPB Summer Meeting will be held in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, at The Coeur d’Alene Resort, Aug. 6–8. Next year’s Annual Meeting will take place in the Main Building of the Broadmoor, March 12–13, 2014. PG
Ritchy Toeves of American Falls, Idaho, has a laugh between takes, while John Meyer of Cohocton, N.Y., poses during the USPB Executive Committee photo shoot
Ocean’s Eight. During the luncheon, National Geographic filmmaker/adventurer/author Jon Bowermaster discussed his “Ocean’s Eight” project, a 10-year expedition by sea kayak that took his teams to many places on the globe, including the Aleutian Islands, Chili, Tasmania and Antarctica
Outgoing USPB CEO Tim O’Conner explains to the board his difficult decision to leave the board after having served 14 years as its CEO, in order to take on a new challenge at a new marketing agency for avocados