Hollee Alexander is National Potato Council’s ‘master sergeant’
If John Keeling has been the National Potato Council’s face and voice for the past 17 years, Hollee Alexander has been its backbone.
Alexander, whose official title is senior director, program and events, started with the NPC just two months after Keeling did back in 2002. She has been instrumental in the organization’s evolution, including spearheading the creation of Potato Expo 11 years ago.
Alexander’s primary responsibilities include planning and executing the NPC-coordinated events and education, such as Potato Expo, the D.C. Potato Fly-In, Potato Industry Leadership Institute and summer meeting.
“We have our policy team with John and Kam (Quarles) that are out there, doing all the issue-based work, advocacy and lobbying,” Alexander said. “I work to help communicate to the growers on what issues they’re working on their behalf.”
Alexander is recognizable to most people within potato industry because they’ve met her at one event or another, but most days she’s at NPC’s Washington, D.C. office, handling the nuts and bolts.
A ‘master sergeant’
Quarles, who will succeed Keeling as the CEO of the National Potato Council this summer, has been a co-worker of Alexander since officially joining the organization in 2016. As a longtime agricultural lobbyist who often advocated on the NPC’s behalf, Quarles has known Alexander far longer than that, however.
“Hollee is the consummate master sergeant, and I hope she takes that as a compliment,” Quarles said. “She has all the details down. She knows exactly how to execute plans. I love the creativity she brings to Expo and all the meetings we have. She brainstorms new ideas, and the best part is she knows how to carry them out very effectively. That’s sort of a rare combination.”
Eleven years ago, the council wanted to combine numerous topical meetings held throughout the year (e.g. chip summit, seed summit) into one event that would bring the whole industry together. What resulted was Potato Expo, which is at the forefront of Alexander’s responsibilities. At the start, the NPC expected 500 attendees, but got 800 at the first show. Now, 2,000 people attend each year.
“She is the nerve center of the Expo,” Keeling said. “She’s had the benefit of being able to grow it and have the skills to grow it. It runs more smoothly than when we started. She’s always looking at new things that can be done. You can’t rest on your laurels, and she’s well aware of that.”
Alexander said she’s driven by providing value to the industry. “There is a tremendous amount of planning and prework that goes into it,” she said, “but when you’re on site and you see the entire industry coming together, making connections, talking about potatoes and growing their businesses, you see there is a great value and benefit.”
Alexander, nee Stubblebine, grew up in a military family that moved around a lot early in her life. She was born in the Netherlands, hence she was named Hollee, short for Holland.
By the time Alexander was in elementary school, the family settled in Virginia. She grew up there and went to Old Dominion University in Norfolk, where she earned a degree in political science, although she had little idea what she was going to do with it.
“I did not have a well-played plan, no,” she said, with a laugh. “When I started out in my career, I started working for an association and found that I really liked working with the membership. I moved on into the food industry for a grocery retailers. From that, I grew into the role with the NPC.”
Other than about a year-and-a-half stint in California, she’s spent her adult life in the greater Washington, D.C. area.
Alexander said she enjoys the D.C. area, but she and husband, Andy, strive to get their two daughters — Rylee, 11, and Finley, 8 — out of the city and outdoors. They especially enjoy biking and recently took a trip to Kiawah Island near Charleston, South Carolina.