Phil Burnett, who has served for the past 12 years as chief executive officer of the National Cotton Council, announced at the organization's annual meeting in San Diego that he is leaving for a post in the private sector.
He will become president and chief executive officer of The Seam, a newly-organized Memphis-based company involved in electronic cotton marketing.
He will continue in the council post until March 1.
Gaylon B. Booker, who has served the council for his entire 40-year working career and is senior vice president, was elected by the organization's board of directors to move into the top position when Burnett leaves.
Although he had announced his retirement from the council at the end of 2000 and had planned to become a consultant for the organization on farm policy and other industry priorities, he agreed to accept the leadership role.
“We're pleased that Gaylon is willing to assume this responsibility at this critical time for the industry, as we go into a period of new farm policy development,” said James Echols, newly-elected council chairman. “This will enable us to maintain the strongest possible staff and to continue the business of the council without the distraction of a search committee immediately working to find a successor.
“The cotton industry is fortunate to have a person with Gaylon's experience in policy development and administration to step in and help maintain momentum and to facilitate a smooth transition in staff leadership.”
As senior vice president, Booker was responsible for coordinating all council programs, with the overall mission of helping each of the industry's seven segments to compete effectively and profitably in global markets.
Before that, he had served as vice president of operations and earlier was head of the Economic Services Department, directing activities related to world supply and demand for cotton and other fibers, as well as special studies on inter-fiber competition.
A native Mississippian, Booker is a graduate of the University of Memphis.
Burnett, who has spent 33 years in the cotton industry, is a native of Hollandale, Miss., where his family's farming operation included cotton, soybeans, and grains. He holds a degree in business administration from the University of Mississippi.
He first joined the council in 1968 as a field services representative and in 1972 assumed responsibilities for the organization's Washington operations. He left the council in 1982 to serve as president of the Cotton Board, and returned in 1989 as chief executive officer. As council CEO, he also served as CEO of Cotton Council International and as executive vice president of the Cotton Foundation.
“My decision to leave was prompted by what I see as an exceptional opportunity to join an organization whose principals are themselves among the cotton industry's more outstanding leaders,” Burnett said. “I fully expect The Seam to make a positive contribution to the economic health of the U.S. cotton industry, and I look forward to helping facilitate that outcome.”
He told the San Diego group, “Working together, we've accomplished a great deal through some very difficult, challenging times. This is an industry I have a great love for and it has been a privilege working with people and organizations all over the world. For an old country boy from Hollandale, Miss., it's been a great ride.”
The Seam's first online trade was executed Dec. 8, 2000, and through January the company had traded more than 100,000 bales online. Its future plans include offering international trading, financial and risk management services, input sales, and logistical services.
“Phil brings to The Seam a superior level of knowledge and leadership in the cotton industry,” said Louis Baioni, the company's interim CEO. “We're very pleased to have a person of his caliber taking the helm of the company. We couldn't have custom-ordered a leader with better credentials than Phil Burnett.”
Robert McClendon, National Cotton Council president, said the cotton industry is indebted to Burnett “for the excellent leadership he has provided through the years,” and for the excellent staff he has assembled. He leaves the council in excellent hands.”
He said the council's priorities in the change of leadership will be “to maintain momentum in addressing key issues, while assuring a smooth transition to new staff leadership.”