F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 9 POTATO GROWER 5 was already pretty proud of what the National Potato Council was doing (in 2001), but John took it to like two levels beyond that; he’s just been such a great addition to the potato industry and real- ly got us where we needed to be.” One nomination said Keeling’s folksy demeanor was exactly what the potato industry needed and the native Texan’s brilliant political ingenuity has changed the NPC landscape. “John has been a charismatic leader for us,” said Larry Alsum, president and CEO of Alsum Farms & Produce, Friesland, Wis. “He works well with peo- ple, he’s connected with our legislators and he just knows the right people to get the job done,” he said. “Keeling loves the potato industry,” said Hollee Alexander, senior director of pro- gram and events at the National Potato Council. “There’s nobody more passion- ate about the potato industry than John is,” she said. “He wants to know that the potato industry is going forward and is going to be a part of it even in his retire- ment.” Accepting the award, Keeling reflected on the time he was hired in the months after 9/11 in 2001. He said the council has strived to represent the industry in Washington to speak with one voice. “There are a lot of people in Washington who believe, and I think it’s true, that the National Potato Council punches way above their weight,” he said. “I think you’ll see that we will continue to do that because we’ve got great struc- ture, we’ve got a great group of people, and we have great leaders.” Keeling said the industry has given him and his family much more than he has given it. “It has been a great ride,” he said. “I will miss every one of you.” John Keeling (left), is the 2018 Potato Man for All Seasons. The Packer's edi- tor Tom Karst presented Keeling with the award last Friday at the NPC's annual awards banquet held in Austin, Texas. (Photo Ted Kreis).