Ken Keck, former executive director at the Florida Department of Citrus, has been named the next president of the California Citrus Research Board.

Keck is expected to succeed Ted Batkin on June 1. Batkin, president since 1993, is planning to retire from the Visalia-based board in September, according to a news release.

Keck, a grower, was executive director and general counsel at the Florida organization for six years. Before that he was its director of government affairs 2002-06, and director of legislative and regulatory affairs 1999-2002.

The California board chose Keck in part for his experience combating citrus greening, chairman Earl Rutz said in the release. The disease is also known as huanglongbing, or HLB.

Florida citrus exec joins California research board“As an industry we are facing some serious threats, most notably the continued spread of the Asian citrus psyllid and identification of HLB in our state,” Rutz said in the release. “(Ted’s) are big shoes to fill, (but) we believe Ken’s track record, enthusiasm and alignment with the perspective of California growers will make him an excellent asset.”

During Batkin’s tenure, the board increased research investment to more than $5 million. The primary research focus is the HLB disease and vector management of the psyllid.

At the Florida Department of Citrus, Keck secured an average $7 million annually in state and federal funding and helped establish a $10 million foundation for annual disease research as well as development and commercialization efforts. Florida growers saw a return of $3 to $5 for each marketing dollar under Keck, according to the release.

“I know what it feels like to have your livelihood threatened, and I want to use this understanding and my experiences in Florida to benefit the California industry,” he said in the release.