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Citrus official quits to join Lykes Pasco

The executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus resigned unexpectedly Tuesday to lead Lykes Pasco Inc.'s international marketing operations.

Dan L. Gunter, who has been with the Citrus Department and the Florida Citrus Commission for about 12 years, stepped down from his position as industry leader, consensus builder and enforcer of state and industry rules. His official departure date is Nov. 16.

Gunter, 45, will become vice president of international sales and marketing for Lykes Pasco, a major citrus processor and marketer in Dade City. The newly created position is part of Lykes Pasco's plans to increase international efforts, said company chairman Tom Rankin.

During his tenure at the Citrus Commission, Gunter helped the industry weather near-disastrous freezes, the citrus canker scare and disputes over how to market Florida orange juice.

Sometimes Gunter sat in the hot seat. In recent months he and the commission have been criticized by a few in the industry who felt they weren't doing enough to protect Florida's right to impose quality standards on orange juice companies.

Despite such acrimony, sometimes evident at Citrus Commission meetings, many commissioners have supported Gunter.

"If somebody in . . . a point position like that doesn't get criticism, he ain't doing nothing," said James E. Huff, a commissioner and citrus grower from Wabasso.