Succeeding at Succession

The main event for NGRA’s Annual Meeting of the Members at the beginning of each year is our elections. Although our term of office for officers is one year, we’ve been fortunate to have low turnover among our leadership. So, officer elections have become pretty routine for NGRA for the last few years. Then 2023 happened!

As part of some 2022 organizational housekeeping, we put in place a succession plan for officers—something we never had before. In doing so, we separated the Secretary and Treasurer roles (heretofore impeccably handled as one combined role by Dan Martinez) and ensured that each officer vetted by our Nominating Committee was willing to commit (to the degree they can see into the future) to ascending to the next rung of leadership when that officer departs. (So, for example, our Vice Chair will become Board Chair if/when the Chair vacates her position.) We also asked each to commit to a two-year term as we instituted this transition.

With the election of officers at our annual meeting on January 23, 2023, we saw the new succession plan come to fruition. It created an opportunity for new folks to step in—and know they can settle in—to leadership roles with the organization, resulting in more than half our officers assuming their very first terms. It also resulted in a leadership team that’s as geographically and economically as diverse as the regions and sectors of the grape and wine industry whose research needs NGRA represents.

The new officers our members voted in last month are:

  • Chair: Jessica Youngblood, Youngblood Vineyard, MI
  • Vice Chair: Rich Schaefers, Nuveen Natural Capital, CA
  • Secretary: Emily Hodson, Virginia Wine Board (Veritas Vineyard and Winery, VA)
  • Treasurer: Dan Martinez, Martinez Orchards, CA, re-elected
  • Past Chair: Tony Stephen, American Vineyard Foundation (Scheid Family Wines), CA, re-elected

NGRA’s Board Directors—currently 28 Commodity Sector, Regional and At-Large Representatives from across the U.S.—also are elected at the annual meeting. (Board Directors may be elected at any of our other two Board meetings each year, too.) As with our officers, we enjoy high retention among our Board members, so at election time, most are renewing their three-year terms. But in January, among the six Board Directors elected, we were thrilled to welcome one who’s brand-new: Natalie Collins of the California Association of Winegrape Growers. She and her five re-elected colleagues are listed here:

Commodity Sector Representative

  • Wine Grapes: Rich Schaefers, Nuveen Natural Capital, CA, re-elected

Regional Representative

  • California: Keith Striegler, & J. Gallo Winery, CA, re-elected

At-Large Representatives

  • Natalie Collins, California Association of Winegrape Growers, newly elected
  • Allison Jordan, Wine Institute, CA, re-elected
  • Anji Perry, Lohr Vineyards and Wines, CA, re-elected
  • Tony Stephen, American Vineyard Foundation, CA, re-elected

All Board and annual meetings are open to all NGRA members as well as prospective members, our academic partners and guests. So, we were delighted to be joined in January by new member Dustin Hooper of Sunridge Nurseries, too.

Of course, I’ve highlighted here the new leaders and members of NGRA, since that’s “news.” But the fact is, the quiet, steadfast contributions of everyone who joins, renews year after year, and volunteers time from their very full professional lives is what enables us to deliver our research mission. Thank you to all!

View all NGRA officers and their bios, as well as all Board Directors and staff here. And see the complete list of NGRA member-organizations here.

Donnell Brown