(UPDATED COVERAGE, Dec. 21)  Florida’s citrus industry has picked a Publix category marketing manager to lead the state’s Department of Citrus.

UPDATED: Florida Citrus Commission hires new leaderOn Dec. 21, members of the Bartow-based Florida Citrus Commission voted to hire Douglas Ackerman, a marketing manager with the Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix Super Markets Inc., as its new executive director.

Ackerman, who worked in the chain’s deli, prepared foods, dry grocery, frozen and dairy units since 2005, was one of 114 people who applied to head the agency, which the commission oversees.

A search agency narrowed the candidates to 11. A commission search committee shortened the list to four: Ackerman; John Loughridge, the former vice president of North American marketing for Coral Gables, Fla.-based Fresh Del Monte Produce NA Inc.; Charles Powell, a Lake Forest, Ill. marketing consultant who helped develop the “Got Milk?” campaign; and Gregory Venner, a former executive of Paramus, N.J.-based GFA Brands Inc., the operating subsidiary of the Smart Balance Inc dairy products manufacturer.

Citing public scrutiny during the selection process, Venner and Loughridge withdrew their names from consideration. Loughridge in 2007 left Del Monte to become vice president of food products for Latin America and the Caribbean for oil seed and vegetable oil company Bunge Ltd. He later joined Naturipe Farms LLC, Naples, Fla., as vice president of sales and marketing for the berry grower-owned marketer’s processed sales division, Naturipe Foods LLC.

The committee voted 5-4 to approve Ackerman’s hiring and enter negotiations with him for a $190,000-250,000 salary range. Executive director Ken Keck, a longtime agency staffer who started as an agency lawyer in 2002, resigned in August.

During discussion of approving Ackerman’s hiring, two commissioners expressed concerns.

“Would it make sense to step back for a minute, say our marketing programs are already laid out for next six months and we know where we’re going?” asked Michael Taylor, vice president and general manager of Naples-based Collier Enterprises’ agribusiness division. “I am just wondering if we’re trying to get ahead of ourselves and if we’re moving too fast.”

A 22-year military veteran, Ackerman also worked in marketing for Pizza Inn Inc., Metromedia Restaurant Group, which operates as Bennigan’s, and worked for several marketing and advertising firms.