WENATCHEE, Wash. — Ines Hanrahan, a postharvest physiologist and project manager at the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, has been appointed as the commission’s new executive director.
The commission board announced Hanrahan’s selection on Aug. 20. She succeeds Mike Willett, director for the past three years.
The commission was established by state statute in 1969 to support research and services to the industry. The commission raises about $4 million annually from grower assessments that fund research projects. It has seven full-time and five seasonal staff positions.
Hanrahan’s annual salary, yet to be finalized, will be between the $105,000 she currently makes and the $175,000 Willett is paid, she said.
“We are very pleased that we could attract Dr. Hanrahan to this position. In the 49-year history of the commission, she is only the fourth director, following George Ing, Dr. Jim McFerson and Dr. Willett,” said Jim Doornink, commission board chairman and longtime Yakima-area tree fruit producer.
“Dr. Hanrahan has an outstanding track record when it comes to being able to anticipate, evaluate and react to short-term and long-term industry needs,” Doornink said.
Willett will continue in a transitional role and working on projects until next June, Doornink said.
Hanrahan, 43, grew up in East Germany and received an agricultural engineering degree from Humboldt University in Berlin in 1999. In 2000, she took an internship at Peters Orchards in Wapato, Wash. She married neighboring orchardist Mark Hanrahan and in 2005 received her doctorate in tree fruit postharvest physiology from Washington State University.
She joined the commission and early on tested and verified research for a Honeycrisp apple storage regimen developed by Jim Mattheis, research leader at the USDA Agricultural Research Service Tree Fruit Research Laboratory in Wenatchee.
She managed other collaborative research projects on fruit quality, storage technology and food safety. Recent focus has been on pre- and postharvest physiology and she is experienced in practices in fruit, vegetable and nursery production from grower to consumer.
She has been an active member of the WSU tree fruit Extension team and has built an international network of scientists from experience in Europe and South Africa.
“She has a wealth of knowledge developed through her education and experience, but she also brings a broad perspective and energetic dedication to address challenges facing growers,” said McFerson, currently director of the WSU Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee.
“She understands fruit production systems and the horticultural, physiological and socioeconomic issues facing tree fruit industries regionally and worldwide,” McFerson said.
Hanrahan said those challenges include changing consumer demands, compliance with federal food safety regulations, rapidly expanding production in organic systems and implementation of digital and engineering technologies. She said she plans to maintain an aggressive approach to meeting those challenges.
Hanrahan said she’s dedicated to connecting with the next generation of industry professionals, as a mentor and leader, to set a positive example for an increasingly diverse workforce.
This will enable the commission to “stay relevant and provide outstanding value” to the industry, she said.
The Hanrahans have an 11-year-old son, Kai.
She will rotate between her office at WSU Extension in Union Gap and the main commission office in Wenatchee and will eventually be located at the Hansen Building (Fruit Place) in Yakima.