When Becky Wilson stepped through the doors of the Tom Lange office on her first day as a receptionist in 1991, she wasn’t expecting that the produce industry would be her home for the next 19 years.

Becky Wilson: Tom Lange Co.

Wilson

“At some point, I realized I loved the industry, so I kept seeking more challenges and learning everything I could,” Wilson, now the company’s assistant vice president, said.

“My desire was recognized, and I was given more responsibility as the years went on.”

Wilson is now involved with the day-to-day management of the company and its wholly owned subsidiaries, having primary responsibility for marketing initiatives, public relations and managing PACA disputes.

She also acts as a counselor to senior management and a corporate liaison to the offices, she said.

With produce as a passion, Wilson has a special place in her heart for working more fruits and vegetables into the public school system.

“I find it unthinkable that the government is knowingly serving meals that will negatively affect (students’) health,” Wilson said.

The issue is one of many that have forced Wilson to develop patience during her career.

“I am a now person. I see the task at hand and complete it,” Wilson said. “When I started getting involved with bigger picture issues in the business, it was hard for me to realize that there are some things that just take time.”

Wilson got a chance to get more involved through the United Fresh Produce Association’s leadership program in 2006.

“I believe she brings a passion in whatever she believes in, whether it’s nutrition or a PACA claim. She’s just an honest, reliable person to work with,” said Lisa Strube, director of finance and nutrition for Chicago-based Strube Celery and Vegetable Co. and also a member of the 2006 leadership class.

The two also served together on the U.S. Department of Agriculture advisory committee.

“Through the leadership program we did crisis communication and media training, and she’s such a strong advocate for nutrition and the snack programs and things with kids and schools. One of the things I truly envy about her is her passion, and ability to take those feelings and put them into action.”

Victoria Backer, senior vice president of member services for United Fresh, said she’s always been impressed with Wilson.

“She comes off a little quiet to start, but I think that’s because she’s a really thoughtful person,” Backer said.

“If I really wanted someone who’s been in the industry for a while, if I had a challenge or a problem and really wanted some thoughtful feedback, I could call her and have a really good conversation.”

Wilson said her role models are Phil Gumpert, Tom Lange’s chairman, chief executive officer and president; and Jan Fleming, Strube Celery and Vegetable Co.’s president.

“(Gumpert) is tireless in his efforts,” Wilson said. “He has taken me under his wing and taught me several aspects of the business. I have learned from him that people respect you more if you accept nothing less than the best from them.”