(Sept. 22) SALINAS, Calif. — The fresh-cut produce industry is losing one of its most prominent executives, but it may gain an agriculture-friendly legislator.

Steve Taylor, chief executive officer of Fresh Express, announced Sept. 19 that he was retiring. He said he may run for Congress in 2006 or 2008.

Taylor’s decision comes at the end of a two-year commitment to Performance Food Group, which bought Fresh Express in 2001, to help steer the company to a new platform.

“I am very satisfied with the integration of the company within the PFG family, the complex transition into one company that has been a challenging, yet rewarding, achievement,” Taylor said in a news release.

Taylor said it was a good time for him to retire because both Fresh Express’ retail and foodservice markets are at strong levels.

“The growth in our salad blends segment has been phenomenal, and our fresh-cut fruit program is testing successfully on the West Coast,” Taylor said. “I have always believed fresh, value-added fruit could be as big or bigger than value-added salads.”

Taylor began his career at Fresh Express in 1987 and was responsible for developing the company’s retail packaged salad program in the 1980s. He helped pioneer a new category at retail with the launch of Fresh Express’ original Iceberg Garden Salad.

Taylor will continue in a strategic development role at Fresh Express and will continue to be active in the Salinas community. He serves on the building stewardship committee at his church.