(Jan. 15) ANAHEIM, Calif. — Dick Spezzano plans to use past achievements as stepping stones to the future as he takes the helm of the Fresh Produce & Floral Council for 2003.

An industry icon in Southern California with a 20-plus year association with the council, the president of Spezzano Consulting Service Inc., Monrovia, Calif., is serving his first term as chairman of the board, though he has played a pivotal role in the organization through various committee assignments.

Spezzano said he hopes to take some of the successful innovations the council has launched recently — like the education seminar, foodservice outreach and Northern California luncheon — and build on them to better serve members in the coming year.

Spezzano and other new officers and directors of the Buena Park, Calif.-based organization took center stage as they were formally introduced at the council’s Broadway-themed dinner dance at the Grove of Anaheim Jan. 11.

Spezzano said the council likely will schedule another education seminar and at least two more luncheons for members in Northern California.

He said he would like to refocus the council’s attention on tenants of the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market, the role of which has changed significantly in recent years, largely as a result of retail consolidation. Spezzano also plans to continue to reach out to foodservice operators, perhaps by devising activities specifically for that sector. The foodservice committee, headed by Robert Thompson, president of RFT Farm Sales Inc., Westminster, Calif., has helped boost council participation by foodservice operators, Spezzano said.

Cooperation with other trade groups, such as the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association and the Alexandria, Va.-based United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association as well as the Mexican American Growers Association also is on Spezzano’s agenda.

Spezzano grew up in the Boston area but started his produce career with Vons Grocery Co., Santa Fe Springs, Calif., in 1963. He held several positions at Vons, including produce manager, assistant store manager, produce buyer and produce merchandiser before being named vice president of produce and floral in 1983.

He left Vons and in 1997 formed a consulting service, which specializes in perishables. Besides serving on the board of directors of the Fresh Produce & Floral Council, he is active in PMA, United and other industry organizations.

As he stepped down from the council’s chairmanship, Chris Puentes, president of Interfresh Inc., Fullerton, Calif., cited the luncheon for Northern California members last summer, foodservice outreach efforts and the education seminar in the fall as the organization’s crowning achievements for the past year.

The education seminar, designed with both retail and foodservice members in mind, featured expert speakers in the areas of biotechnology, irradiation, food safety and food security.

Puentes also lauded the council’s increased cooperation with PMA.

“We are really beginning to hold meaningful discussions with PMA regarding partnering with them in reaching out to regional areas,” he said.

Besides enabling PMA to better reach end users, Puentes said, partnering helps give the Fresh Produce & Floral Council more visibility and credibility.