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Industry Owes Debt Of Gratitude To Cindy Seel For Her Work At PMA FIT

In the fall of 2006, we ran a piece titled, PMA Foundation Prepares To Launch, which included a brief reference to the then-newly established foundation’s executive director:

Recently Cindy Seel, a popular executive when she worked at PMA from 1997 to 2002 and a minor celebrity as she was the pioneer in a PMA experiment that led to certain employees being allowed to operate from remote locations, was appointed as the executive director of the new foundation.

We tried to help what was then called the PMA Education Foundation and what ultimately came to be called the PMA Foundation For Industry Talent (PMA FIT) by offering to run a series of pieces in Pundit sister publication, PRODUCE BUSINESS, that laid out the rationale for the foundation and provided a basis for soliciting donations:

May You Live In Interesting Times

Workplace Disconnects

Finding — And Keeping — Talent

Early Exposure Breeds Success

Supporting The Foundation

Cindy left the Foundation in early March. She has children and her living in Atlanta and PMA being headquartered in Newark, Delaware, required much travel beyond the already extensive travel required to visit donors and execute the programs of the Foundation. We also suspect that organizational changes at PMA, which served to tie the Foundation closer into PMA’s organizational structure, made the job more difficult for someone working remotely.

Cindy was able to secure a position as a Vice President at the Printing & Imaging Association of Georgia just a hop, skip and a jump from her home, and at this stage in her life, that is surely the right position for her to hold. We wish her well.

As the Foundation prepares for its first Board Meeting since Cindy’s resignation, we thought it worth mentioning what an incredible job she did.

Starting from the nothing, PMA FIT has raised over five million dollars!

Now, obviously, Cindy can’t get all the credit for this. PMA has donated a lot of money and, perhaps more important, made donations to the Foundation a great opportunity for donors, as PMA picked up most overhead costs including three staff members. Rare in the world of philanthropy, this meant a donor could give to PMA FIT and know that 100% of his or her donation would go toward the cause itself — not administration and overhead.

The whole Foundation was inspired by the generosity of Jay and Ruthie Pack who have continued to support its work through the years.

Plus many of the donors are among PMA’s largest supporters and would have seriously considered any PMA initiative.

The board of directors has remarkable consistency with Bill Schuler of Castellini Company LLC, Bud Floyd of C. H. Robinson Worldwide. Peter Goulet of Pinnacle Sales & Marketing, Stephen Barnard of Mission Produce, John Anderson of The Oppenheimer Group, Duane Eaton of the PMA, Gene Harris of Denny’s Corporation, Ed McLaughlin of Cornell University, Lisa McNeece of Grimmway, Jay Pack of The Pack Group, and Bryan Silbermann of the PMA having all served continuously on the board since its founding.

Others on the initial board included Janet Erickson of Del Taco, Roberta Cook of UC Davis, Margaret D’Arrigo Martin of D’Arrigo Bros of California, Don Harris when he was with Wild Oats, Robert Gray when he was with Duda, Bruce Taylor of Taylor Farms. The current board also includes Dave Corsi of Wegmans, Jan DeLyser from the California Avocado Commission, Lorri Koster of Mann Packing, Jim Leimkuhler of Progressive Produce, Frank Padilla of Costco Wholesale, Dick Spezzano of Spezzano Consulting Service, Geoff White, Safeway, and Tim York of Markon Cooperative.

This is a powerhouse board and its mrmbers could have raised a lot of money on their own, though of course, Cindy helped to shape the board.

And the whole idea of the Foundation — to attract, develop and retain talent for the produce supply chain — is sort of Mom and Apple Pie and so difficult to resist.

Finally, the produce industry is a generous and supportive one for valuable initiatives.

This is all true but does nothing to subtract from Cindy’s achievement. The best opportunities in the world can be squandered through mismanagement or lost if people find the leadership uninspiring or doubt their competence.

Executive directors come and go, and with its capital campaign concluded and many programs well established, the PMA Foundation for Industry Talent will do just fine.

But the industry owes a tip of the hat to a woman who took nothing and made it something. It could have easily worked out differently.

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