VIDALIA, GA: The Vidalia Onion Committee has a new manager - and a new PR challenge.
The committee, which oversees all promotional activities, including PR, for 135 sweet-onion growers, has picked Jeffery Hall to replace Tina Marice Wheeler.
Wheeler was arrested May 24 for allegedly stealing $600,000 (or about 1.5 times the annual budget) from the committee, according to the AP.
She is charged with forgery, theft, and falsifying documents.
Wheeler did not practice PR herself but outsourced that work to several agencies. (Hall said that he didn't know which ones.)
Hall was brought in at least partially for his PR experience. He was most recently VP of corporate administration for the Savannah Goodwill chapter, where PR was one of his duties.
Wheeler left the committee in March. Hall came on board for the group on June 1.
Hall said he plans to perform much of the PR work for the onion growers in-house.
"We'll have more control of [PR], and it will be a lot more cost-effective to do it in-house," Hall said.
His first PR challenge might well be the media inquiries around his predecessor's upcoming trial.
The US Department of Agriculture, which created the committee, is fielding most of those questions, he noted.
"That's another part of my job, to cooperate with officials," Hall explained, adding that the allegations haven't tarnished the position.
"I pretty much have a clean slate to go ahead and move forward and be creative," he said.