(July 10) LANSING, Mich. — Capping off a year of change in which it had lost its manager, moved its headquarters and saw its marketing director leave for other pursuits, the Michigan Apple Committee is under new leadership.

The committee has hired Denise Yockey, a longtime marketing representative, as manager of the Michigan Apple Committee.

Yockey, whose 18 years in marketing and public relations includes six with the Michigan Department of Agriculture as an international marketing manager, is scheduled to take up her duties July 17, according to the committee.

Neither Yockey nor Mike Evans, the committee’s board chairman, could be reached for comment.

But Barry Winkel, general manager of Greg Orchards and Produce Inc., Benton Harbor, and a member of the search committee, said Yockey impressed him during the interview process.

“She has a lot of new ideas,” Winkel said. “She seemed to be very energetic in her presentation.”

Openness to innovation is needed in a business that has not seen optimal profits in recent years, Winkel said.

“I think the committee has to try new ideas,” he said. “They have to show where some of the things we’ve done in the past either have been working or haven’t. That’s going to be a challenge for the committee; they have to determine what has been working and what hasn’t.”

Yockey succeeds Mark Arney, who resigned in September and is now the executive director of the Orlando, Fla.-based National Watermelon Promotion Board.

“Her biggest challenge, like running any commodity association, is to help enhance grower returns,” said Arney, who added that he had worked with Yockey, then with the state agriculture department, in his efforts to open up the Mexican market to Michigan apples.

“I think, with agriculture being in the doldrums, as it has for a number of years, that’s going to be a very big challenge,” he said. “The difficulty with that is, you don’t have control over quality and price, so she’s going to have to come up with some new and inventive ideas to help spark the industry along.”

The addition of Yockey is the latest in a string of changes for the committee, which recently moved its headquarters from nearby DeWitt to Lansing.

The committee also lost Patrick O’Connor, its marketing and communications director and interim manager, in March, when O’Connor opted to pursue his doctoral studies full time at Michigan State University. He had been with the committee 13 years.