(July 1, 8:53 a.m.) A career that spanned a collective 25 years with the Fresno County Department of Agriculture has come to an end.

Agricultural Commissioner Jerry Prieto has retired. He served nearly a decade in the department’s top post in California’s No. 1 agriculture county.

During his tenure as commissioner, Fresno County endured two freezes, a peach fruit fly quarantine that brought international trade barriers, a glassy-winged sharpshooter infestation that threatened the grape and raisin crops — among Fresno County’s most lucrative commodities — and the looming irrigation water shortage on the county’s west fringe.

Prieto, 58, is a San Joaquin Valley native who was reared on the family farm near Corcoran, 50 miles south of Fresno. He joined the Fresno County Department of Agriculture in 1973 as a seasonal agricultural aide before becoming a seasonal agricultural inspector of cantaloupes and grapes. After 15 years, he left the department in 1989 to accept the position of resource manager with the county’s Public Works and Planning Department.

Prieto was lured back to the agriculture department in 1999 when he was offered the commissioner’s post.

He officially retired from the department on June 30, but he has agreed to serve as interim commissioner until a successor is named. He is scheduled to present the 2007 crop report to the county’s Board of Supervisors on July 22.

It could be weeks before a successor is named. The successful candidate must hold various licenses and must pass written and oral examinations.

When his successor is selected, Prieto said he plans to keep busy volunteering at the veterans’ hospital in Fresno and may accept a part-time job in agriculture.