(Jan. 16) David Eldredge, 54, president and chief executive officer of and partner in NewStar Fresh Foods LLC, Salinas, Calif., has retired from the company, where he served in those positions since November 2002. Mark Drever, another partner in the company, has assumed the role of chief executive officer.

Eldredge remains a partner in NewStar. In a statement from the company, Drever calls the departure a planned “hiatus,” and Eldredge said he has plans to return to the produce industry.

“Between golf, skiing and working out, things couldn’t be better,” Eldredge said Jan. 16, as he was preparing to leave for a vacation with his family. “I made a decision I was going to leave at the end of the year, and now I’m in a recharge mode.”

Eldredge said he left NewStar in mid-December to take some time off after 30 years in the produce industry.

“I wanted to step back, reflect, take some time off — but I’m way too young to retire,” he said. “I’m still involved as a partner in NewStar, and I’m on the (California Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement) board. I’ve been talking to a lot of folks to formulate my next move.”

He said he hopes to know by April what that next move might be.

“I’m already getting calls talking about different opportunities,” he said. “I can’t say exactly what I’ll do. I just don’t know, but I’ll be ready by April, the way I’m going.”

He said he was not aware of what NewStar would do about filling the president position, and Drever declined to comment on the internal organization of the company.

Eldredge’s departure was preceded by that of John Killeen, former vice president of marketing and sales, who left in July to join Tanimura & Antle as vice president of marketing and business development. NewStar vice president of production and processing Leonard Batti left the company in January to join the Mixtec Group, Salinas, an executive search company.

Drever would not comment on if or when Batti’s position would be filled.

He did say of Eldredge’s departure, “He felt it was time to step out and take a break from the day-to-day mix. He’s my partner and still involved with the company.”

Eldredge said some possibilities he is considering include consulting or a senior management position. He declined to discuss how his relationship with NewStar might change if he should take a management position with a competing company.

Before coming to NewStar, Eldredge was a vice president at Tanimura & Antle, Salinas, heading its sales and marketing. He was at Tanimura & Antle for 12 years.

Eldredge was a founder of Salinas-based foodservice cooperative Markon Cooperative Inc., in 1985. He was chairman of the Produce Marketing Association, Newark, Del., and for two years was chairman of the PMA foundation’s fundraising committee. He was The Packer’s Produce Marketer of the Year in 1995 for his success in increasing the marketing of value-added produce.

He was responsible for growing NewStar’s green onion and spinach business and building upon its 50,000-square foot value-added processing facility.

NewStar president decides it’s time for a break