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A changing of the guard is officially under way at the Produce Marketing Association (PMA), which is shifting its previously announced leadership transition plan into overdrive for the next 13 months.
In preparation for his retirement at the end of January 2017, Bryan Silbermann, CEO of the Newark, Del.-based trade association that he joined in 1983 and has led as its CEO since July 1996, is handing the reins of PMA's day-to-day operations to Cathy Green Burns, who came aboard as president two years ago to the day on Dec. 1, 2013.
Silbermann, who previously held both president and CEO positions, said the leadership transition is on course as planned 24 months ago, when PMA’s executive committee approved Burns as his successor in tandem with his planned early 2017 retirement.
In addition to overseeing the association's day-to-day operations throughout 2016, Burns will primarily focus, beginning on Jan. 1, on three core areas, including:
- Benchmark performance progress, as outlined in PMA’s strategic plan 2.0
- Serving as the primary contact between the board of directors and staff
- Leading PMA’s long-term growth and staff development to ensure the association continues to provide year-round, personalized value to its members and the industry at large
"I will have one foot firmly planted in the present, executing against current strategic plan, with the other foot grounded on keeping an eye on preparing for the future of PMA," Burns told Progressive Grocer. Foremost to her profound appreciation for the opportunity to lead one of the global food industry's most dynamic and influential trade organizations, Burns cites PMA's triumvirate of strengths with "financial health, staff expertise and member engagement, all of which is poised for incredible growth in the future."
Following a deliberate plan based on "good advice and trusted input from a variety of experts," Silbermann said the ongoing leadership transition is fitting with one of the most important lessons he learned from his predecessor and mentor, Bob Carey, who led PMA from 1958 to 1996 and whose legacy positioned PMA for its dramatic growth and stature as one of the most well respected trade associations in the world.
Reflecting on Carey's hand-off of the PMA torch nearly two decades ago, Silbermann said: "Although the process itself was handled a bit differently, the key message was that while you need to have continuity, you also need to get out of the way of the leader who's being handed the reins, so that everybody understands who is calling the shots, and who has the final say. That experience stood me and our organization in great stead, and I recall determining at the time that we would have the same type of values applied during the next transition."
To that end, Burns credits both Silbermann and PMA's past and present executive committees for "having the foresight to plan for" – let alone prepare to execute – "a thoughtful leadership transition. Not all organizations and associations can say that, and I feel very fortunate to have the continuity of an incredible bench strength on PMA's staff" across the board. Ditto for "the strength of our volunteer leadership," which she says includes more than 400 individuals around the globe who volunteer with PMA in some way or another.