(Jan. 22) Wendy Fink-Weber has joined Irvine, Calif.-based Western Growers as the new director of communications.

She succeeds Tim Chelling, who left the industry in August.

With more than 25 years of experience in high-level media relations, Fink-Weber took over the position Jan. 14.

Before joining Western Growers she owned her own public relations agency.

Fink-Weber said coming to Western Growers was particularly attractive since she already knew of Western Growers president Tom Nassif because they had had both worked for the Reagan administration, when he was acting chief of protocol.

“And Dave Puglia (senior vice president, government affairs and communication, for Western Growers), worked for Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.), who I’ve known for three decades. I thought these are people I’d like to work for.”

Before starting her consulting practice, Fink-Weber was special assistant to the deputy secretary at the Department of Education and was deputy press secretary to Nancy Reagan.

Puglia said her level of experience offers Western Growers the ability to better manage crises communications.

“We see 2008 as the continuing of issues from the policy side,” he said. “We still don’t have immigration reform, we don’t have a farm bill and we have food safety as a continuing concern. All of those have very serious communications challenges in the general media and as an outsider Wendy brings a fresh perspective.”

Fink-Weber said she is bringing to Western Growers decades of press secretary, media and public relations experience, as well as knowledge of the internal workings of federal, state and city governments.

“I’m studying up to learn more about the industry, and I’m looking forward to meeting and getting to know our members,” she said.