Longtime ag leader, advocate for Fresno region leaving role. Who will fill his shoes?

Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual, is stepping down as the organization’s leader after a 37-year run.

Nelsen, who has earned the reputation as one agriculture’s staunchest advocates, is being replaced by Casey Creamer, the organization’s current executive vice president.

Creamer takes over as president on Feb. 1, according to a California Citrus Mutual news release. Based in Exeter, the 2,500-member organization represents 75 percent of California’s $3.8 billion citrus industry.

Casey Creamer, incoming president of California Citrus Mutual. CCM Special to the Bee

Nelsen said the move to find a new president has been in the works for several years. Creamer joined the group last February as an eventual replacement for Nelsen, who remains with the organization as a consultant and technical expert.

“The citrus industry is very fortunate to have had an individual of Joel’s caliber the last 37 years. That kind of loyalty is not only rare, it’s unheard of,” Curt Holmes, board chairman, said in the release.

“Joel has taken a relatively small industry and has given us a huge voice. We’ve faced many challenges over the years and have addressed them head on with his energy and passion leading the way. We are incredibly grateful to him for his service and we appreciate his willingness to stay engaged in the industry.”

Nelsen, 72, said the timing was right for a leadership change, especially as the state welcomes a new governor in Gavin Newsom.

“The whole idea was for me to leave the organization and the industry on credible footing,” Nelsen said. “You can always retire later, but its better to retire early. I may look like a kid but I am a lot older than I look.”

Holmes said he is looking forward to having Creamer lead the organization. “His prior experience working for a sister commodity organization and his work representing growers on water issues made him an ideal selection,” Holmes said.

“Over the last year his knowledge of the citrus industry has greatly expanded and he has quickly become a valuable member of the CCM team on behalf of the industry.”

Creamer, who has worked with Kings River Conservation District and the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association, said he was humbled by the opportunity to serve.

“I’ve been extremely fortunate to work with some of the best leaders over my career and have nothing but respect and admiration for the job that Joel has done advancing issues important to the citrus industry,” Creamer said.

“I’m looking forward to carrying on the many successful traditions at CCM, while constantly seeking new ideas and pathways to address the significant challenges we face.”