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Ines Hanrahan

The Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission has named Ines Hanrahan as its executive director, replacing retiring manager Mike Willett.

Hanrahan, formerly a project manager, assumed her new responsibilities on Aug. 17. Willett, who has held the top spot since 2015, will continue to work on several projects and support the transition until fully stepping down in June 2019.

Hanrahan has been with WTFRC since 2005 and specialized in fruit quality, postharvest physiology and food safety. As she takes on more work from the executive director’s chair, she will gradually pass off some of her projects in those fields to the incoming Washington State University endowed chair for postharvest work and to Faith Critzer, the university’s food safety extension specialist at the Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center, she said.

WTFRC has no immediate plans to fill Hanrahan’s former spot, she said.

Hanrahan was chosen from a field of four finalists after an international search. She is the fourth leader of the research commission, founded in 1969.

She grew up in East Germany and studied horticultural engineering at Humboldt University in Berlin. In 2005, she received a Ph.D. in postharvest physiology from WSU. She is married to Mark Hanrahan, a local tree fruit grower. They have an 11-year-old son.

Mike Willett

Willett technically held the title of manager of the research commission. The title was changed to help attract more candidates, he said.

For the next year, Willett will continue staffing the cherry and technology research reviews, represent the industry to the state Department of Agriculture regarding the apple maggot quarantine and continue to monitor the progression of research projects involving spray drift modeling and crab apple decay.

Willett, 66, has spent nearly 50 years working in the Pacific Northwest tree fruit industry as a county tree fruit extension specialist and a staff member at the Northwest Horticultural Council.