(Jan. 19) ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Fresh Produce & Floral Council officially welcomed new officers and directors for 2006 and started gearing up for more expansion during the organization’s annual dinner dance at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel Jan. 14.

Heading the council as chairman this year is Jack Gyben, vice president and partner at Progressive Marketing Group, Los Angeles. He accepted the reins from outgoing chairman Pat McDowell, vice president of produce at Perimeter Sales & Merchandising, Los Alamitos, Calif.

Gyben’s goals for the year include studying the needs of members and finding ways to meet those needs.

McDowell said one of the council’s major achievements in 2005 was greater-than-anticipated attendance at luncheons in Northern California and Phoenix.

The council led a produce tour in Northern California in June in conjunction with the Produce Marketing Association’s annual Retail Solutions Conference in Monterey and has planned its first Northern California golf tournament for June 2006.

The council also added a produce handling guide to its Web site — www.fpfc.org. Although the guide was designed for stores that did not previously handle produce, McDowell said even workers at traditional supermarkets with established produce programs have expressed interest in the tool.

The council, which has sponsored golf and bowling events in the past, had its first family day at the races at Santa Anita Park last year.

“It turned out to be a great event,” McDowell said, and another is planned for 2006.

Council membership has risen to about 765 — an increase of about 100 from last year.

Judging from comments he has received, Gyben said the council is one of the most successful organizations of its kind in the U.S., and he hopes to continue that success.

Other new officers for 2006 are chairman-elect Raul Gallegos, senior director of produce and floral at Bristol Farms, Carson, Calif.; and treasurer Liane Temple, floral buyer and merchandiser at Stater Bros. Markets, Colton, Calif. McDowell holds the office of immediate past chairman.