In Texas, cowboys do not retire — they ride off into the sunset. John McClung, president and chief executive officer of the Texas International Produce Association since 1999 and a former United Fresh and national government official, recently packed his saddlebags and has officially turned over the reins of TIPA to Bret Erickson, who had already been serving in that capacity for the past year-plus.
Despite McClung’s protestations that he “didn’t want any *&^%$ party, no @#$%* speeches, and no #$%&@ parting gifts or awards,” more than 50 well-wishers turned up at the Nuevo Santander Art Gallery in McAllen, TX, to provide an appropriate sendoff for the man who played a pivotal role in expanding the Texas produce deal across international borders.
Said Erickson, “We showered him with praise and he seemed to have a great time catching up with a lot of his old friends, some of whom he hadn’t seen in a while.”
The setting was particularly fitting since McClung, an accomplished woodworker, has several pieces on display in the gallery. He will have more time to pursue that activity moving forward and also looks forward to focusing more on the bucolic bed and breakfast he and wife, Judy, operate near McAllen as a getaway for birdwatchers.
McClung became president of TIPA (then Texas Produce Association) in 1999 and oversaw the Texas Produce Export Association; Texas Gift Pack Shippers Association; Texas Produce Marketing Cooperative; TexaSweet Citrus Industries Inc.; and three federal marketing orders for South Texas (citrus, dry onions and melons). He also served on the Agricultural Trade Advisory Committee of U.S. Department of Agriculture, is a member of the Texas Border Coalition and is active on boards of the Fruit & Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corporation, Frontera Audubon Society and Friends of the Wildlife Corridor.
McClung began his career in 1968 as a general assignment reporter for United Press International based in California. After completing his masters at the University of Minnesota in 1971 he joined Miller Publishing, a subsidiary of the American Broadcasting Co., and in 1973 was named that operation’s Washington bureau chief.
In 1981 he was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as director of Information & Legislative Affairs for the USDA Food Safety & Inspection Service. In 1984, he became USDA’s overall director of Information.
In 1987, McClung became senior director of Public Affairs for United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association (now United Fresh Produce Association) and in 1990 was named vice president for Government Relations and Public Affairs.