(Jan. 30) Florida’s largest citrus grower organization plans to take its time finding the right person to succeed its outgoing leader.

Lakeland-based Florida Citrus Mutual on Jan. 19 announced it had appointed J.A. “Jay” Clark III, owner of Clark Farms Inc., a Wauchula, Fla., grower for the processing market, to be its interim executive vice president and chief executive officer.

In the meantime, the group plans to search for a successor to Andy LaVigne, who Jan. 3 announced he was leaving the position he had since 1998 to lead the Washington, D.C.-based American Seed Trade Association.

Citrus mutual president Marty McKenna, president of McKenna & Associates Citrus Inc., Sebring, Fla., said the group has engaged a headhunting firm and expects the process to take six to nine months.

Clark, who has been a board member since 1993, not only has a grower background but also brings administrative experience through his work as president of the Federal Land Bank of Tampa, the Federal Land Bank Association of Wauchula and Southwest Florida Farm Credit Services, McKenna said.

Clark has been citrus mutual’s board secretary since 2001. During his interim role, McKenna said Clark will leave the board but will return when the new chief executive begins work.

LaVigne’s last day was scheduled for Feb. 1.