(UPDATED COVERAGE, Jan. 10) Just a few months after he joined the association as senior vice president, the Texas International Produce Association made Bret Erickson its president and chief executive officer.

The promotion was effective Jan. 7. Erickson succeeds John McClung, who plans to continue working with the Mission-based association, focusing on its Border Issues Management Program.

Since Erickson came on board, the association has undergone some changes in staffing and outreach programs. Part-time positions for the director of finance and director of industry relations were combined into a new full-time position.

“Ultimately we decided to hire a full-time director of industry relations to do event planning, industry outreach, membership outreach, etc.,” Erickson said.

The association hired Esmeralda Leal to fill the position. Erickson said Lilly Garcia remains with the association as office manager, executive administrative assistant an associate manager of the South Texas Onion Committee.

“Esmer has been a great addition, is full of enthusiasm, great with people and has some tremendous work experience having worked for executive leadership for HEB Mexico and the U.S. State Department in Monterrey, Mexico.”

Leal’s role also includes an increased presence in social media, starting a Facebook page and Twitter profile to share news related to the Texas produce industry.

“We have started to expand our Web-based outreach in the last few months,” Erickson said. “Everyone is connected via the Web these days and I think expanding our social media outreach is something we needed to do. The more touch points we can create with our members and help educate folks on what’s happening in the industry — what issues are impacting us, what’s going on in Texas, what’s happening in Mexico, what’s happening nationally — is a value to our members and the industry as a whole.”

Erickson said the association is looking forward to the third America Trades Produce Conference March 6-8 in McAllen, Texas.

“We’ve added an exposition event to this year’s conference and we’re really focusing on showcasing fresh in-season product on the expo floor,” he said. “We’re anticipating our biggest turnout yet.”

A port tour also is planned, along with a meet-and-greet with Pharr-Reynosa bridge officials with the Customs and Border Protection, FDA, U.S. Department of Agriculture and a tour of the new IEH-Quanta Labs facility in Pharr, Texas.

The association plans an inaugural fundraiser golf tournament in June, benefitting the Rio Grande Valley Food Bank, and the Texas Produce Convention is scheduled for Aug. 7-9 in San Antonio.

“We are planning a few interesting and exciting tweaks to this year’s Texas Produce Convention that I think folks are going to be quite excited about,” Erickson said.