File photoDan Richey, Riverfront Groves Inc. When asked to describe himself with one word, Dan Richey chose “passion.”
Richey, 53, president and chief executive officer of Vero Beach, Fla.-based citrus grower-shipper Riverfront Groves Inc., provides numerous examples stemming from his desire to play baseball.
He has loved the sport from his childhood days in New Jersey to his stint as a player on a national championship team at Florida Southern College, to his entry in the citrus business.
“When I came here, I didn’t know the difference between an orange and a grapefruit,” Richey said. “I was a baseball player and was recruited by schools in the Northeast. I came to Florida Southern and played second base.
“We won a national championship in 1978. I liked playing here in Florida because I could play year-round and didn’t have to play inside a bubble.”
Richey met his wife, Audrey, at Florida Southern. Turns out, her family was in the citrus business; her father was a leader in Florida’s citrus industry at Riverfront Groves.
“Victor Knight was one of the industry leaders, and his father, John Knight, served on the first Florida Citrus Commission, in 1935, and Victor went on to serve on the commission,” he said.
Richey later would do the same, serving for two years as chairman under Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
Richey developed a passion for the business that, he said, rivaled his love of baseball.
He started with Riverfront Groves in its harvesting and grove-development operations and later moved into the packinghouse, where he learned the shipping side of the business. In time, he became a company vice president and, in 1989, was named president.
Richey’s involvement in industry affairs didn’t stop with day-to-day operations within his company.
Like his predecessors, he immersed himself in issues affecting the health of the state’s citrus industry.
He has served as chairman of the Florida Citrus Commission, president of the Florida Citrus Packers, chairman and president of the Indian River Citrus League, secretary-treasurer of the Citrus Administrative Committee, member and director of the grower-launched Highland Exchange Service Cooperative and co-chairman of the Florida Citrus Canker Technical Advisory Committee, which developed the Citrus Health Response Plan.
In his three decades in the business, Richey said he has seen the industry evolve as it innovates.
There is plenty more to do, he said.
“We’ve seen a real decline in consumption at the consumer level, and we’ve got to collectively fix that,” he said.
“We have got to change that curve, flatten it out and start to let it crawl upward. We have to come together collectively and take ownership of this and not expect anybody else to solve our problems.
“We need to reinvent our fresh fruit in the global market place and acknowledge there will be increasing competition,” Richey said.
“We have to be strategic, tactical and have a flawless plan. We have a limited amount of time to correct this.”
Richard Kinney, executive vice president of the Lakeland-based Florida Citrus Packers, said Richey is just the man to take a leadership role in achieving those goals.
“He and I have been side-by-side on a lot of these issues,” Kinney said. “He has a great passion and I have a lot of respect for him.”
Richey’s passion has made him a “true leader” in the industry, Kinney said.
“He can’t get enough of the business and is willing to do what is necessary to help the industry,” Kinney said. “You don’t find that in everybody.”
Richey also has developed universal respect in the industry, which is a rare commodity, Kinney said.
“The other thing, what makes an effective leader, is he likes people, and he’s as good as they come,” Kinney said.
The passion Richey has developed for his business will never allow him to slow up or retire, he said.
“It’s not happening,” he said.
“I do triathlons and run. I can do it at night. It’s what I do for my fitness. My fitness is my mistress. I love getting up in the morning at 5 o’clock. I love getting up and checking my BlackBerry and having my morning coffee. I love this business.”