The Grower-Shipper Association of Central California (GSA) reflected on a year of positive change under the leadership of its first female chairperson and inaugurated the mayor of Salinas as its new chairman at its May 29 annual meeting.

This marked a historical day in the organization’s 78-year history as the first time a current city mayor has held the organization’s top position.

Kay Filice began the meeting with reflections on her year as the association’s first chairwoman. She highlighted the organization’s new Web site, logo, and increased communications with members, and partnerships with educational institutions, public service groups and legislators.

Filice said her role with GSA was that of an educator, stating “We must continue to take responsibility for informing the people in our community and the nation’s consumers about the tremendous health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables.”

A San Benito County grower, mother, and businesswoman, Filice brought a unique perspective to the chairperson’s role. She also spoke of her vision for GSA’s future.

“It is my hope that one day the Grower-Shipper Association will join with our trade partners across all commodities to create a national campaign where doctors, dieticians and nutritionists join together to verify the health benefits of fruits and vegetables,” Filice said.

Filice focused on nutrition education and public outreach during her year as chairwoman and will remain a member of the board for one more year, during which she will aid the board’s transition and continue to focus on outreach projects.

Incoming chairman Donohue lauded Filice’s leadership, saying that she was the right leader at the right time, and the perfect person to step into the chairperson role, stating, “I truly believe if Kay didn’t exist in our industry we would need to invent her!”

Donohue is the mayor of Salinas and president of Royal Rose, LLC, a local grower-shipper specializing in radicchio. He spoke of Salinas as the world’s biggest fresh garden, and a driving force behind the local economic engine.

Donohue also touched on the idea of Salinas Valley agriculture as the fresh laboratory of the world, tying into Dan Dooley’s keynote address at the event. Dooley is the vice-president of agriculture and national resources at the University of California. He spoke about the importance of industry and university collaboration to further research for the benefit of the entire community.

Jim Lugg of Fresh Express was awarded the annual E.E. “Gene” Harden Award for lifetime achievement in recognition of his 45-year career and contributions to ag research, science, and technology.

Donohue also challenged the audience to think of the central coast as a fresh lifestyle destination, a community of glorious landscapes and rich history as well as the fresh produce capital of the world.

Donohue will lead the organization as its chairman until May 2009. Lorri Koster of Mann Packing Company is the chairwoman-elect for the 2009-2010 year.

The Grower-Shipper Association is an organization representing over 300 members in Monterey, San Benito, Santa Cruz, and Santa Clara counties.