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Julia Stewart, who for the past two-and-a-half years has served as public relations director for the Produce Marketing Association, is stepping down from that post. Her last day is Friday, Jan. 21.

Ms. Stewart, who wrote in an email that she remains "passionate about our industry," cited family obligations as her reason for leaving the association. She said that she wants to devote more time to her two young children, and that she is engaged to be married this spring to Dennis Courtier, an apple grower and marketer.

Prior to joining PMA, Ms. Stewart operated her own consulting business, Clarity Communications LLC, and she said that she would reactivate that business.

Before founding Clarity Communications, Ms. Stewart was vice president of public relations for U.S. Apple Association in McLean, VA. For USApple, she directed the association's consumer outreach activities to promote U.S. apples and apple products, including founding the apple industry's nutrition research and promotion program. She also directed the apple industry's crisis communications activities on issues ranging from food safety to biotechnology, often working in coordination with PMA and other industry organizations. Her industry service has included chairing the Produce for Better Health Foundation's communications committee.

PMA has launched a search to replace Ms. Stewart as public relations director. Meg Miller, public relations manager for PMA, will handle the duties on an interim basis until a permanent replacement is named.