(July 24) Welcome, goodbye.The downsized Washington Apple Commission, Wenatchee, has a new leader.

Yakima grower Dave Carlson, owner and general manager of Carlson Orchards Inc., was named interim manager of the commission in mid-July. There are no immediate plans to search for a permanent manager.

He succeedsWelcome Sauer, who joined the commission in July 1999 as director of business development and was promoted to president of the commission in December 2000. Sauer’s last day at the commission was July 15.

Sauer said he had anticipated leaving the commission ever since a U.S. district judge ruled against the commission on March 31.

The judge ruled then that the commission’s collection of mandatory assessments for domestic marketing and advertising represented forced speech, in violation of the First Amendment. The commission decided not to appeal the ruling.

On April 10, the commission laid off 33 employees and said it would phase out operations.

That plan was altered when a settlement was reached with litigants May 20 that allowed the commission to continue its nonspeech functions and assess 3.5 cents per carton to fund industry organizations, including the Vienna, Va.-based U.S. Apple Association and the Northwest Horticultural Council, Yakima.

The plan also allowed the commission to coordinate export promotions of Washington apples via funds distributed by the U.S. Market Access Program.

On July 23, an eastern Washington federal district court judge indicated that settlement will stand, though he recommended new legislation to reshape the mission of the commission.

However, staffing at the commission — once as high as 60 employees —will continue with perhaps six or seven.

“I told someone earlier this year that by the time the watermelons are ripe, we’d be moving on — and the watermelons are ripe,” Sauer said.

Sauer said he enjoyed the opportunity to serve Washington apple growers, but said the nature of the commission has changed.

“My skills aren’t needed in that organization, based on the way it is structured now and how it will be in the future,” he said.

A resident of Wenatchee, Sauer said he has made a commitment to move into the management consulting profession. He said he expects to have clients among Washington apple marketers and fresh produce shippers, in additon to outside the produce industry.

Sauer said Carlson, who has been a member of commission’s board since 2000, has served as chairman of the finance and operation committee and is familiar with the organization’s day-to-day operations.