Richard Kinney (1949-2015)
Richard James Kinney was born June 7, 1949, in Las Vegas, Nevada to James Franklin and Dora Miano Kinney. He and his sister Marion grew up traveling, as his father was in the U.S. Air Force and trained pilots in Ethiopia for several of Richard’s early formative years before retiring in Georgia as a Lt. Colonel.
The family moved from Georgia to Florida in 1962 when his father bought a small farm in Pasco County and Richard and his sister, Marion, grew up in Zephyrhills where they both attended Zephyrhills High School (ZHS).
While there, Richard met Duke Chadwell and they became lifelong friends in the industry – along with Ron Jeffries, a man who would become a dear friend and mentor whose impact would shape Richard’s life forever. Jeffries was the FFA chapter sponsor and Vo-Ag instructor at ZHS who encouraged Richard to participate and take on numerous leadership roles in FFA. He was involved in all aspects of student life, including athletics and showing steers at local and state fairs. In his senior year, Richard won the FFA statewide public speaking, scholarship and most valuable member honors, while fellow member Duke Chadwell, won Star Chapter Farmer. They both served as officers of the Zephyrhills FFA Chapter for three years and Richard was both the FFA and the 1967 Class President. He also represented the American Legion in Boys’ State Citizenship Training at Florida State University in 1966, where he was chosen for several positions out of 560 boys attending, including that of party whip for the Federalist Party. He went on to become the Tri-State FFA Speaking Champion and spent a year after graduation to serve as the 1968 State FFA President.
Afterwards, he attended Faulkner State Junior College, where he received the James B. Allen Award given by Senator Allen to the student who exemplified the traits of scholarship, citizenship, leadership and sportsmanship. He maintained a GPA of 3.6, was president of the Student Government Association, member of Phi Theta Kappa, member of the basketball team, on the President’s List and in the Who’s Who in American Junior Colleges before attending the University of West Florida (UWF) on a basketball scholarship, where he majored in political science.
After graduation, Richard went to work for Pasco Hernando Community College as a community affairs person when the college was in its infancy. He worked there several years building up the college’s connections in the community before going to work for Senator Lawton Chiles as his Agricultural Liaison for the state of Florida. It was while working with Chiles that he met his future wife, Kim, whom he would marry on D-Day, June 6, 1987 and have a son, Jake, together ten years later. Jake shared Richard’s love of athletics and they spent countless hours together fishing and practicing baseball. Jake is now in his first spring training camp this year with the Phillies as a professional pitcher.
After Chiles, Richard joined Andy Ireland’s staff, where he was in charge of the office and together, those experiences developed a strong background in both state and national political circles. His experience, combined with his passion for the citrus industry and agriculture as a whole, became just what his friend from FFA, Jim Emerson, thought the Florida Citrus Packers needed when he decided to step down as the executive director in 1983. Jim and Bobby McKown, who was head of Florida Citrus Mutual, convinced Richard to apply for the position and he was hired just in time, because six months after he came on board as executive director, the December ‘83 freeze struck, followed by one in ’85 and another in ’89, all combining to disrupt the entire industry.
The industry changed rapidly, with a reduced number of packers and more involvement with federal and state agencies due to the need for production support to replant. New plantings created an increased export market, which came with problems like biological pests and different diseases. All of this happened at a point early on in his tenure, so his ability to work with governments from his prior experience benefited both him, and especially the industry, in his awareness of knowing how to maneuver the halls of government.
During the 1980s and ‘90s, when the industry was really peaking on exports and international trade issues, Richard became truly both the U.S. government and the fresh industry’s “go to man” on trade issues like tariffs and phytosanitary problems that were happening at the time.
From 1983 until his retirement in 2012, he worked tirelessly to maintain export and domestic markets for fresh Florida citrus after the discovery of citrus canker, “walking the halls” of Tallahassee and Washington DC building the case for continued market access and ensuring that scientific research supported the cause. He helped the industry through overseas export challenges on fruit flies, canker and quarantine issues; citrus greening, in-store juicing debates and discussions, brix level studies, challenging industry consolidation discussions, import citrus dynamics, new packaging and carton size considerations and discussions – even inspection costs, which led to the development of the Partners in Quality program with FDACS.
He was one of the industry’s foremost experts on trade regulations and pest interdiction, as well as a successful hands-on citrus grower himself, who replanted after both the 1983 and 1989 freezes, planting 20 acres of Sunburst tangerines after the latter just so that he would have a fresh fruit variety. Uncompromising and unapologetic of his defense and advocacy for the fresh fruit packers, he was known as a “bulldog on a soapbox” and fought tirelessly for the betterment of Florida’s fresh fruit citrus industry on numerous issues.
Throughout his career with the Packers, Richard served on many local, state and national boards and committees to work for the improvement of the Florida citrus grower and fresh citrus packer. His never-ending devotion to the fresh Florida citrus industry was only second to his support and love of his family and his deep faith, which was always on display. To say Richard Kinney had passion for the Florida citrus industry and his family would be an understatement.
Dan Richey, Burt Roper, Jim Emerson, John Minton, and Gap Kovach all worked with Richard as Directors leading the former Citrus Self-Insured Fund, later Florida Citrus, Industry, and Business Fund and noted that he always supported harvesters, growers, packers, and processors whenever the opportunity arose to help protect their work force.
Richard literally walked, talked and breathed fresh Florida citrus but his friendly grin was always there around the conference table. He was fierce when it came to defending and supporting the fresh citrus industry, but yet was liked and respected by all who worked with him, including his adversaries. He had a deep love for the Florida Citrus industry and a dedicated passion for the fresh fruit sector which he represented honorably, aggressively, and unapologetically. He was known and respected at the local, state, and national level and he carried the banner for the fresh segment of the Florida citrus industry with a fervor that was unrivaled in trade association circles. Richard had a nickname, given to him by Victor Knight, that perfectly describes Richard’s method for taking-on issues: “Bull Dog.” Richard was a “Bull Dog” for his family, faith and the Florida citrus industry!
Richard believed that the word “fresh” belonged to fresh citrus only and that the word had value and equity. He fought tirelessly to protect its use and ensure that it was only applied to fresh fruit. Though he had a deep appreciation for the orange juice market, he drew clear distinctions between the categories. He was the first and last line of defense for the survival and competitive position of Florida fresh. To Richard, working for Florida’s fresh citrus packers and shippers was more than a job, it was a passionate calling. He had a deep appreciation for the entrepreneurial spirit of his members, who create jobs and value from the raw land.
Perhaps the greatest respect came from his adversaries. After a heated debate, when tensions were running high, we would always turn and look his opponent in the eye and say “God Bless you” as he walked out the door. And he meant it.
Even after his death in 2015, Richard’s passion for a project dear to him continued as donations in his memory were requested to help build the Lakeland Christian Baseball Facility of which he was working on when he passed. And, of course, he helped get the job done!
As Executive Vice President of the Florida Fresh Fruit Packers Association, his strong leadership skills, his communication skills, his “do whatever it takes” attitude earned him the respect of those he interacted with on behalf of the Florida citrus industry …. U.S. Congressmen, State Representatives, heads of Federal and State Agencies, as well as the growers and packers of Florida citrus and Richard Kinney will long be remembered as the face of Fresh Florida Citrus.