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United Fresh honors true leader with Lifetime Achievement Award

TUCSON, AZ — A number of worthy candidates were under consideration for the United Fresh Produce Association’s 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award, according to United Fresh President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Stenzel. But when it came time for the board’s selection committee to make a final decision, there was really only one choice.IMG 3331Emanuel Lazopoulos addresses attendees of the gala dinner in his honor as he received the United Fresh Lifetime Achievement Award.

Emanuel Lazopoulos, who recently retired as senior vice president of sales and marketing for Del Monte Fresh Produce, was that choice, and the industry members who were in attendance at the annual United FreshStart Foundation Conference Jan. 14-16, here, heard first-hand from Lazopoulos’s friends, family and former colleagues just what made him the kind of leader that helped advance the produce industry and earn him the prestigious honor.

Don Barnett, chief executive officer of Sun Basket, who has known Lazopoulos for decades and was a founding partner with him at NewStar, took the dais to speak of his longtime friendship with him.

“To know Emanuel is to know his deep commitment to his family, and that starts with his wife Laura,” he said. “But his leadership has been pioneering. For too long, leaders have been focused on the management side and less on the leadership side. Emanuel brought great empathy to his teams and created a safe environment in which to flourish. For me, his name is synonymous with passion and enthusiasm. I’d like to thank you, Emanuel, you taught me how to be a better person and that it’s not as important to know what’s right, but to do what’s right.”

Next up was Danny Dumas, who worked under Lazopoulos at Del Monte Fresh and eventually rose to the senior vice president position he vacated.

“My former boss taught me empathy,” said Dumas. “When he hired me from Canada, I was excited to work for him and I learned the importance of how to treat customers and employees. His open-door management style was something to be emulated, and his ability to communicate with the team made everyone feel important.”

He added that the many Del Monte Fresh team members who were in attendance at the ceremony were there not because they were asked to come, but because they wanted to be there.

Laura Lazopoulos was next to address the audience, recounting the early part of her husband’s career.

“I still remember typing out cover letters for him to send with his résumé before he got his first job as a produce merchandiser at Dole,” she said. “I remember watching him walk out the door for his first business trip. Little did I know that would be the first of many, many trips on his way to being a 2 million mile frequent flier. I loved the stories he brought home and the many friends we have met throughout the years. I can’t say enough about the impact this industry has had on our family.”

Taking the stage to raucous applause and a standing ovation, Lazopoulos deferred credit to others for his success.

“I am truly humbled by this award,” he said. “I am a blessed man in many ways, especially by my wife Laura and our three daughters and sons-in-law. The credit for this honor goes to them, as well as to my many colleagues. My career dates back more than 40 years, and I’ve had many mentors who deserve a great deal of credit for my success in this wonderful industry.”

And like a true leader, Lazopoulos then directed the attention toward the future of the industry, saying, “The impact that many of you are having on the young members of the industry is remarkable. It’s a fabulous industry that is changing every day, and it is exciting to see the opportunities that are now available.

“United Fresh has also had a great impact on my career and on the industry, and I applaud you all for choosing to voluntarily serve the industry through this fine association,” he concluded.