The NPC executive search committee receives The Packer’s 2019 Potato Men and Women for All Seasons Award on Jan. 16 from Packer Editor Tom Karst (center). ( William Schaefer  )

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — It takes a village to raise a child, the proverb goes, and the same truism could be applied to a commodity organization.

For the National Potato Council, industry leaders on the executive search committee for the group's recent leadership transition were honored by The Packer’s Editor Tom Karst.

The committee chose Kam Quarles to succeed longtime NPC CEO John Keeling.

Karst presented the committee with The Packer’s 2019 Potato Men and Women for All Seasons honor at the NPC’s annual banquet on Nov. 16.

Members of the NPC executive search committee honored with the award are:

  • Larry Alsum, Alsum Farms and Produce Inc., Friesland, Wis.;
  • Britt Raybould, Raybould Brothers Farm, St. Anthony, Idaho;
  • Dominic LaJoie, LaJoie Growers, Van Buren, Maine;
  • Bob Mattive, Worley Family Farms, Monte Vista, Colo.;
  • R.J. Andrus, Idahoan Foods LLC, Idaho Falls, Idaho;
  • Jared Balcom, Balcom and Moe, Pasco, Wash.;
  • Cully Easterday, Easterday Farms, Pasco; and
  • Dwayne Weyers, Center, Colo.

Keeling, who retired in 2019 after 17 years with the potato group, received The Packer's award in 2019.

Investing in the future

The NPC promoted Kam Quarles, vice president of public policy and communications for NPC since 2016, to the position in April.

Mike Wenkel, executive director of the Michigan Potato Industry Commission, was hired to fill a newly created role of chief operations officer.

“Volunteer leadership of an organization like the National Potato Council comes with the responsibilities of putting in place paid staff that will influence the direction of the group for years  if not decades  to come,” Karst said.

“The process was not without different opinions and disagreements, but in the end the entire search committee was looking for what was best for the industry,” Karst said. “The promotion of Kam to CEO and the on-boarding of Mike Wenkel as chief operating officer illustrated the board’s consensus of how NPC will fight for industry interests going forward.”

Karst congratulated the group's executive committee with its role in helping to establish The Potato Leadership, Education, and Advancement Foundation (LEAF). The new foundation provides tools, training, and support to help growers and industry members develop as leaders.

Alsum, the group's president in 2019, credited search committee members for thinking of NPC needs for the next decade.

“We didn’t agree on everything, but we came together and it was unanimous consensus to go with the structure we have, the people we have, and so we’re thankful for that,” Alsum said.

Andrus said there was a large pool of qualified applicants, but in the end the group got it right with Quarles and Wenkel. Quarles knows D.C. politics and the potato industry, and Wenkel has outstanding organizational skills, Andrus said.

“They have more than hit the ground running,” Andrus said. “They’ve taken it and gone beyond what we expected.”

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