David R. Seckman, who moved the base of the Natural Products Association from the West Coast to Washington to focus on federal legislation impacting naturals, is leaving his post as CEO to lead the Food Processing Suppliers Association in McLean, Va.
The Association's executive committee announced the resignation Thursday. Seckman has been NPA's executive director and CEO for nine years. He will remain with NPA through July.
Among his accomplishments, Seckman pointed to the association's China initiative, which included establishing an office in Beijing, launching a raw materials testing program and winning a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce to help fund the efforts.
"Certainly a big achievement was establishment of a certification seal for natural personal care products," he added. "Founding the Coalition to Preserve DSHEA will prove to be an even more important milestone as this new Congress moves forward. Let me emphasize these are not my accomplishments, but rather the association's, and were achieved with a talented staff that is remaining at NPA."
Debra Short, president of the Natural Products Association, said Seckman's efforts have made the association stronger than it's ever been. Others in the naturals industry agree.
"He's been a good friend and colleague from day one and in many ways has transformed the organization to what it is today, and he will be greatly missed," said Loren Israelsen, executive director of the United Natural Products Alliance.
NPA's base moved from Orange County, Calif. to Washington, D.C. in 2003 because Seckman believed it would be beneficial to be near Congress when regulatory issues and legislation concerning natural products are debated. He also increased the association's membership, Israelsen said.
"He very skillfully guided the organization to a much bigger membership by offering retailers an inexpensive way to become a member and he has been a key political insider on Capitol Hill," he said.
It's that political savvy and the fact that an enormous food safety bill is making its way through Congress that Israelsen said may have attracted an offer from Food Processing Suppliers Association.
Matt Murray, former NPA board member and general manager of Green Acres Market in Wichita, Kan., said he expects a smooth transition because the NPA has a highly competent staff, but "someone will have some big shoes to fill."
Murray said the board, under Seckman, lowered membership dues several years ago from about $200 annually to what they are today — about $30. NPA's current membership is 10,000 retailers, manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors of natural products, including foods, dietary supplements and health/beauty aids.
"We lowered the dues to make it more accessible to retailers," Murray said. "We wanted to represent the majority of the stores in the country."
A search committee is being formed to work with an executive recruitment firm to find Seckman's successor.
"You can be sure that whoever is chosen will have the capabilities to continue to address the key issues we're currently dealing with, particularly in the advocacy arena," Seckman said. "Like previous search committees, this one will be looking for a candidate who can bring the association's vision to life."