Northwest Dairy Association(NDA) leaders said they elected Jim Wegnerto succeedJohn Underwood as president and CEO for both NDA andDarigold Inc., NDA's Seattle-based dairy processing and marketing subsidiary.

NDA has approximately 550 member-owners and 1,600 employees at 13 plants throughout the Northwest.

Wegner previously was Darigold’s senior vice president of technical services. NDA said Wegner has 35 years of dairy industry experience. In addition to executive roles at Darigold, Wegner spent 28 years at another national dairy company where his last position before coming to Darigold was director of dairy operations (overseeing plants in both the U.S. and Canada).

“The board of directors is extremely pleased to have selected a highly qualified candidate,” says Northwest Dairy Association member-owner and Chairman of the Board Jim Werkhoven. “As a member of the management committee of Darigold for the last seven years, Jim has been a key figure in improving and supporting Darigold’s plants and has shown exemplary leadership in the areas of safety, quality, waste reduction and productivity.”

Said Wegner, “I’m extremely proud to be part of the Darigold family. We have a tremendous story to tell. NDA/Darigold is much more than just a regional dairy cooperative. While well known in the region for our Darigold label products, we also have a large export business and have become a key player overseas as a supplier of high-quality dairy ingredients.

"Darigold’s annual sales exceed $2 billion per year and our producers help feed the world by generating more than 8 billion pounds of milk each year. I take this new responsibility very seriously and I am highly motivated to provide our customers with value-added food ingredient solutions and our consumers with the freshest Northwest dairy products.”

Werkhoven also thanked Underwood, who has been with the organization for nearly 30 years, the last seven as president and CEO.

"John was instrumental in developing Darigold’s core purpose and vision, reinvigorating the Darigold brand and has been a champion of strategic planning and continuous improvement initiatives. He has led the organization to dramatic operational efficiencies and record-setting returns for the cooperative’s member-owners. We extend our warmest appreciation for John’s long-term commitment to Darigold’s success and wish him all the best in his retirement.”

NDA said Underwood will serve as special executive to the board of directors and will assist with the transition.