When I called Jerry Newlin to inform him that he’d been selected as the 2010 Florida Grower Citrus Achievement Award winner, he asked: “Who the heck put my name in for this thing?” I quickly replied that I had put the person in “witness protection.”
Jerry is like many growers I’ve been privileged to get to know over the years. He is a humble man that would just assume stay out of the spotlight. But, in the end, he graciously accepted the honor for what it is — an appreciation from his peers for the tireless work he has done on behalf of the citrus industry in the past few years. Much of that work has focused on building a massive research infrastructure to seek solutions for citrus greening. Because greening is such a threat to the industry, it is little wonder that the previous two Achievement Award winners were selected for their hard work in the fight against this disease. Oh, and by the way, one of them is in the “witness protection” program (wink wink).
I recently had the pleasure of seeing the motivational speaker Ken Futch (KenFutch.com) give his inspirational story about his life after surviving accidentally shooting himself in the head. Sounds gruesome, but Futch’s talk is laugh-out-loud funny and full of life lessons. One of his key points is to embrace the compliments of others, because in doing so, you acknowledge the person giving the compliment. They are a two-way street — it takes one to give it and it takes one to accept. Jerry did exactly that, accepting this award with humility and appreciation of his many friends in the citrus industry.
Recently, the National Academy of Sciences released its recommendations on how Florida’s citrus industry should face up to greening. One of its strongest suggestions is the industry must coordinate an “unprecedented” effort to work together in fighting this disease. The good news is growers and stakeholders are hearing this message, realizing the magnitude of the greening threat. Jerry has been at the heart of this effort to champion a team approach. He helped coordinate one of the first area-wide sprays to control psyllids and is chairman of a subcommittee charged with establishing citrus health management zones.
These efforts are all about cooperation, and Jerry is the man for the job. That is why his friends in the industry nominated him for this award. To a person, the people I’ve spoken to about his leadership say Jerry represents Florida growers with a firm voice, but one that comes away respected by all parties involved. That is a special quality not many people have and is a primary reason Jerry Newlin is the 2010 Florida Grower Citrus Achievement Award winner.