( Photo courtesy Western Growers; graphic by Amelia Freidline )

Tom “Tommy” Oliveri, who worked at Western Growers in various roles for almost 40 years, has died.

Oliveri died May 28. He was 67.

Oliveri retired from Western Growers in January 2018, a few months shy of his 40th anniversary, according to a statement from the association.

“Tommy was a rare breed, an expert in his craft who brought a fierce determination to protect our members when disputes arose between parties in commerce,” Western Growers president and CEO Dave Puglia said in the statement. “Among the WG membership, Tommy probably had the highest name identification of any WG employee; at some point, just about every WG member turned to him for help and he always jumped to their aid.”

Oliveri was an authority on the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act and demonstrated “uncommon dedication” to the Western Growers’ membership, according to the statement.

While in high school and college, Oliveri was an inspector in the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Standardization Program. He received an agricultural biology degree from Cal Poly-Pomona in 1977 and joined Western Growers in 1978 as a grower field representative.

After several years, he moved to Western Growers’ marketing services department, under the direction of Matt McInerney, another recent hire who became a longtime Western Growers employee. 

As director of what is now called the Trade Practices and Commodity Services Department, Oliveri filed PACA claims and helped recover millions of dollars for Western Growers members.

Over the years, Oliveri became a resource on PACA for members, and provided seminars on PACA laws.

“He absolutely loved going to bat for our members and his tireless work boosted many bottom lines,” Puglia said in the statement. “His passing comes as a shock to us all. We join with so many in our industry today in offering our deepest condolences to Tommy’s family.”

After he “retired” from Western Growers in early 2018, he joined the Rynn & Janowsky law firm as a PACA consultant.
Survivors include a son, Matt, and a daughter, Marci,

“His quick wit and sense of humor will be missed,” according to the statement. “The entire Western Growers family extends our deepest condolences to his family and loved ones.”