(March 16) The man credited with helping reshape the Florida Department of Citrus plans to leave his post for the private sector.

Dan Gunter, who has been the department’s executive director since May 2004, said March 15 he will resign April 16 to become president and chief executive officer of LaBelle, Fla.-based Alico Inc., one of Florida’s biggest processed citrus growing operations.

The Florida Citrus Commission, which oversees the department, named Mike Sparks, the department’s strategic planning and evaluation director, as interim director. He will head a five-member search committee that was to have its first meeting March 17.

Andy Taylor, commission chairman and vice president of finance for Peace River Citrus Products Inc., Vero Beach, Fla., said no timetable has been set to find Gunter’s successor. The committee hasn’t determined the qualifications it would seek in its new leader, he said.

“We’re not under the gun to get Dan replaced,” Taylor said. “He has assembled a fine staff and has kept the best of the best that were here. If we could clone Dan, we would do that. We will need someone with excellent leadership skills and someone that will command the respect of the industry and different groups we work with on the state and federal level.”