(Jan. 16) After operating Los Angeles-based Westlake Produce Co. for nearly two decades and dedicating around 40 years of his life to the produce industry, Dale Liefer retired at the end of the year.

Jeff Miller, president and one of four remaining Westlake partners, and Bill Brooks, a partner since 2001, will split the daily operations and management responsibilities, according to a news release.

Partners Wayne Giddings — manager for the firm’s East Coast buying office in Winter Haven, Fla. — and Kent Pomeroy — chief financial officer and general counsel — will help guide Westlake’s operational and strategic plans, the release said.

“I’ll miss the personal relationships the most,” Liefer said in the release. “Although I’ve participated in and benefited from the computer’s impact on buying and selling, I think the best deals were made by personally knowing, liking and respecting your customer or supplier.”

Liefer joined Westlake Distributors, as it was named then, in 1982, and in 1984 he became a partner.

Since then, he has forged relationships between growers and shippers of Texas citrus, melons, California tree fruit and navel oranges and buyers from retail chains on the West Coast. He oversaw the opening of Westlake’s Winter Haven office in 2001, which was done to supply retailers and club stores east of the Mississippi River, the release said.

Liefer attributes Westlake’s expansion to its ability to acclimate in a changing produce environment.

“Westlake’s success is due to its adaptability,” he said in the release. “Despite strikes, freezes and consolidation, we grew substantially in the last 20 years. That’s a real credit to my partners’ leadership, and I know they’ll continue this growth.”

The remaining partners do not expect any immediate changes for Westlake, but they will continue searching for expansion opportunities, such as opening a new office or adding a product line, the release said.

“Dale’s been a great partner whose leadership in developing and enlarging our sales force leaves us knowing we can be successful even in his absence,” Miller said in the release.

Westlake partner Liefer picks retirement