Packer 25 2020 — Dave Puglia

Packer 25 2020 — Dave Puglia

When Dave Puglia, president and CEO of Western Growers, has to make a point for the ag industry with state or federal lawmakers, he is venturing into familiar territory.

He’s a native of Sacramento, California’s capital, which he describes as “a company town” that runs on politics and government.

Puglia earned a bachelor’s degree in government-journalism from Sacramento State University.

Before joining the Irvine, Calif.-based trade organization in 2005, he spent seven years in the California attorney general’s office as press secretary and then as director of public affairs and communications.

'You have to be willing, as a leader, to get into the mud alongside your colleagues and drain that pit. You’ve got to grab a shovel.' — Dave Puglia, Western Growers

He also served in senior roles on several statewide political campaigns and has worked as a public affairs consultant to numerous corporations and industry groups.

When first approached about joining Western Growers, Puglia said he was not excited about signing on with a trade association.

“They are often timid, strained for resources and don’t take risks,” he said.

But he soon learned that Western Growers was different, Puglia said. It’s a collection of six companies built up over time to provide high-quality services to members at a reasonable cost.

“That was intriguing to me,” he said.

Since joining Western Growers as vice president of state government affairs for California and Arizona, he said his role has evolved, and so has the agriculture industry, which he is drawn to because it’s “fast paced and fast changing.”

During his tenure with the organization, he has been involved with several major regulatory issues including water supply, air quality and labor.    

He now is vice chairman of the Public Policy Institute of California’s Water Policy Center Advisory Council and has served on several industry-related boards and advisory councils.

In 2013 he was promoted to executive vice president of Western Growers, and he was named to his present position in 2019.

Puglia believes any success he has achieved is due in part to consistently showing a determination to “fight my way through challenges — both large and small — and to get into the messy stuff.”

Although he’s learned the importance of delegating, “I’ve also learned that over-delegation has its own risks,” he said.

“You have to be willing, as a leader, to get into the mud alongside your colleagues and drain that pit,” Puglia said. “You’ve got to grab a shovel.”

'His approach to achieve positive results is contagious among those of us that have the pleasure to work with him.' — Robert Sakata, Sakata Farms Inc.

Ethical treatment of others, genuineness and humility are other qualities he strives for, and Puglia said he is happy to share credit for successes, “because that’s the reality of how accomplishment happens — it’s almost never one person, it’s almost always people — plural.”

Robert Sakata, owner of Sakata Farms Inc., Brighton, Colo., and president of the Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, called Puglia “a great representative for our industry, not only because of his life experiences in our political system, but because his goal is to achieve solutions utilizing his knowledge of how the system works.”

Puglia is well aware of the importance of the work that he is doing, Sakata said, “and his approach to achieve positive results is contagious among those of us that have the pleasure to work with him.”

“I am extremely excited that he is leading Western Growers into the future,” he said.

More from The Packer 25:
Packer 25 2020 — Paul Ramson
Packer 25 2020 — Shay Myers
Packer 25 2020 — Stephanie Hilton
Packer 25 2020 — James Harris
Packer 25 2020 — Rich Gonzales