The elections had something to do with the record number of attendees at this year’s meeting of the California Olive Oil Council (COOC). Members voted to fill six seats on the COOC board of thirteen members. Candidates included six incumbents and six challengers.
Though the COOC board can accommodate up to fifteen members, the board decided via teleconference not to add an extra seat, resulting in a run-off election between Schuler-Flynn and Nickel. Ballots were sent to members by email Sunday, March 13th and were due by March 18th.
Patty Darragh, executive director of the COOC, spoke highly of the candidates. “I know several candidates,” she said, “and they’re people with tremendous knowledge and passion for the industry.” She was also positive about some changes coming to the COOC, such as creating a new infrastructure through committees including education and marketing, which don’t require board membership to participate.
“People bring different gifts to the board,” Darragh said. This remains true with the newly elected board members. Deborah Rogers, one of the original members of the COOC, is considered a trailblazer in the olive oil industry with a strong knowledge of marketing. Michael Tuohy, chef and owner of Grange Restaurant in Sacramento, brings his culinary expertise and views to the table.
The run-off remained between Nickel or Schuler-Flynn. “My background is with different commodities,” explained Nickel of Rio Bravo Ranch. “I have experience and a broad understanding of lots of commodities in agriculture.” Nickel regularly goes to Washington DC and Sacramento, serving on boards and interfacing with the government. “Specialty crops deserve a seat at the table,” he said. He would like to see the COOC reflect the growing olive industry as a unified team of interested people from different backgrounds.
Schuler-Flynn’s background is far different from that of Nickel, but they each reflect a valued segment of California’s growing industry. Hillstone’s Schuler-Flynn is a voice and perspective of the small producer. “I am very enthusiastic that if I were to be elected, I can bring with me the marketing and production knowledge from a small producer’s standpoint,” said Schuler-Flynn. “I would like to see the COOC do for olive oil what the California almond board did for almonds.”
The run-off result for the sixth seat was announced Monday, March 21st. Laurie Schuler-Flynn has been voted onto the COOC board.