SACRAMENTO — State Food and Agriculture Director Clare Berryhill, a charter member of Gov. George Deukmejian's Cabinet and an aggressive promoter of California farm exports, resigned Tuesday, effective May 22.
Deukmejian, who made the announcement in a prepared statement released by his office, did not name a successor to the 61-year-old Berryhill, a rough-hewn grower and former state legislator known for his candor. He said Berryhill wanted to spend more time on his family's farming operations in Butte and Stanislaus counties.
The announcement was not entirely unexpected. For some time Berryhill had indicated privately that he was tiring of the $85,552-a-year position and was considering returning to his farms full time.
"He has been thinking about it for a long time. Each time, we'd talk him out of it," said a colleague. "This time he did it."
One top-level Administration official who asked not to be identified said a successor to Berryhill probably would be chosen from outside the Department of Food and Agriculture. Mentioned in speculation as a possible replacement is Jack C. Parnell, state director of fish and game and a one-time assistant to Berryhill in the agriculture department.
Berryhill, who as food and agriculture director is a member of the governor's Cabinet, traveled with Deukmejian to Japan in January and to Europe earlier this month to promote California as a good place to do business and to seek more markets for state agricultural products.
In a statement, Deukmejian said Berryhill's "expertise and knowledge, particularly in the area of promoting agricultural exports, will be missed."
Berryhill, a lifelong resident of the Stanislaus County community of Ceres, where he and his family grow grapes, was narrowly elected to the state Assembly in 1969, winning by only 38 votes out of 60,569 cast. In 1972, he was elected to the Senate but refused to seek a second term because it had "become obvious that a legislative career and the proper management of my business interests are incompatible."
Deukmejian named him to direct the Department of Food and Agriculture shortly after he took office in 1983.