Michelle McNeil Connelly will become executive director and chief executive officer of the California Walnut Board (CWB), effective Nov. 1.
She succeeds Dennis Balint, who served as the organization’s leader since 1995.
Connelly is no stranger to the California Walnut Board. Since 2004 she served as the senior marketing director where she directed an expanding portfolio of export programs and executing the walnut industry’s global brand strategy.
She also worked closely with partners in government including USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the United States Trade Representative (USTR). Most recently Connelly led the initiative to open the high potential market in India.
“Michelle has a broad and solid understanding of our industry, our issues and has helped build many of the industry’s markets, making her the ideal candidate to lead us into the next chapter,” said Bill Tos, the walnut board’s budget and personnel chairman.
“I am honored to serve as executive director and CEO,” said Connelly.
“I believe in the power of our industry, working together, growers, handlers and our staff, at all levels who contribute to providing the best product to our consumers around the world. I am committed to our strategy of increasing demand for our excellent product. While we have many challenges ahead of us, I am confident in our people, programs and our brand.”
Though Connelly replaces Balint at the helm of the organization, Balint will remain on staff in the role of special assistant, where he will counsel on key projects.
During Balint’s 30 years with the CWB, the California walnut industry has grown from producing 247,000 short tons of walnuts to an estimated 670,000 short tons this season.