(Jan. 28) The floral category likely will get more emphasis this year from the La Mirada, Calif.-based Fresh Produce & Floral Council with Liane Mast, director of floral for Stater Bros. Markets, San Bernardino, Calif., as chairwoman.

Mast is the fourth chairperson affiliated exclusively with the floral category in the 43-year history of the council. She replaces Raul Gallegos, senior director of produce and floral at Bristol Farms, Carson, Calif.

Mast was formally welcomed Jan. 26 at the council’s annual dinner dance at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel in Anaheim, Calif., along with:

  • chair-elect Ken Ewalt, vice president of retail specialties at Ready Pac Produce Inc., Irwindale, Calif.;

  • treasurer Patty Knoll, a Diamond Bar, Calif.-based sales manager for Temkin International, Payson, Utah;

  • Gallegos, immediate past chair; and

  • several past chairman representatives and members of the board of directors.

Mast, a long-time member of the council, said one of her goals this year will be to revive the organization’s floral tour, which gives members a chance to visit growers.

However, floral won’t be her only concern.

When members of the board of directors met at their annual retreat in December, they showed amazing energy as they shared ideas about the direction in which the council should go and about what can be done to help the membership, she said.

“If we implement half of those ideas, we’ll be extremely successful,” Mast said.

Gallegos recounted the highlights of a year that included the unexpected task of selecting a new president when Linda Stine retired after 12 years.

After narrowing the list of candidates to three finalists, the executive search committee selected Carissa Mace, who previously was the council’s event coordinator and membership director before joining the Produce Marketing Association as director of business development.

The year also was marked by the council’s first Northern California expo, where attendance was far greater than expected, Gallegos said. Anticipation already is building for the 2008 event set for March 5 in Pleasanton.

Luncheons in Northern California, Southern California and Arizona also proved popular with retailers and suppliers alike, and the Southern California expo in Anaheim once again attracted a large turnout among retailers and exhibitors, he said.

“It was the quickest year of my life,” Gallegos said of his term as council chairman. “You could never replace the opportunity to work side-by-side with so many key leaders.”

Mast said she anticipated an equally busy year.

She began her floral career as a part-time clerk at a Hughes Family Markets store 19 years ago. She moved through the ranks to become a supervisor and then a buyer. Through a consolidation process, she ended up working with industry icon Don Bonebrake, who headed the floral department at Ralphs Grocery Co.

When Stater Bros. needed a buyer for its newly created floral department eight years ago, Roger Schroeder, vice president of produce operations and Mast’s boss at Hughes, recommended her for the job.

Mast has been affiliated with the council since her first days in the industry. She has served on several committees and has been a member of the board of directors for five years.

FPFC draws chairman from Stater Bros. ranks
Outgoing chairman Raul Gallegos, senior director of produce and floral at Bristol Farms, Carson, Calif., passes the gavel to 2008 chairwoman Liane Mast, director of floral for Stater Bros. Markets, San Bernardino, Calif., at the La Mirada-based Fresh Produce & Floral Council’s annual dinner-dance Jan. 26 in Anaheim, Calif.