Royal Agricultural & Horticultural Society of SA chief executive John Rothwell will retire this year after 20 years in the top job and 27 years with the organisation.

Society president Andrew Hardy has paid tribute to Mr Rothwell who he said has helped to oversee enormous changes and improvements to the Royal Adelaide Show and the Showground.

“John has made an outstanding contribution to the Society, and the agricultural industry in South Australia,” said Mr Hardy.

“John’s vision and drive has seen the Showground transform into a sought-after event and exhibition venue, spearheading the development of the Kingsway event area, the Goyder Pavilion, and northwest corner of the Showground into a site which today is used for large music festivals, automated parking for events and stages the main carnival for the Royal Adelaide Show.

“Most recently John led the redevelopment of the southeast corner to present what has quickly become a successful caravan park and during the Royal Show a state-of-the-art horse precinct.

“Currently in partnership with Basketball SA, John is leading the development of the State Basketball Centre.

“During his years of service with the Society, John was appointed as Director on the board of Agricultural Shows of Australia and the International Association of Fairs and Expositions based in the United States. These appointments provided an opportunity to bring back ideas for South Australia but also to benchmark the Royal Adelaide Show with other events both nationally and internationally,” said Mr Hardy.

Mr Hardy said a national recruitment drive will begin this weekend to find a replacement for Mr Rothwell, who had been planning to retire before the coronavirus pandemic.

“John may have been keen to retire some time ago but in 2020 when the pandemic landed at our doorstep, and at the request of the Society board John agreed to stay at the helm and steer the Society through unfamiliar territory.

Mr Rothwell said he is proud that the Royal Show is recognised by the South Australian community as an exceptional event.

“This has been confirmed with numerous international awards bestowed on the Royal Adelaide Show,” Mr Rothwell said.

“The Show community, many who are volunteers contributing with a collective purpose, is what makes the difference and delivers the successes the Show achieves.

“The Show being loyal to its roots is front and centre with agriculture and food security, it is more important than ever.

“The story of the importance of agriculture needs to be continually retold to our community and it is the Royal Show that provides that annual opportunity, this platform is not replicated in scale by any other means.

“The Royal Adelaide Show is regularly benchmarked in respect of the strength of its competitive entries which are still today relevant to many elements of agriculture and human endeavour.”

Mr Rothwell said he is also extremely proud to have worked with Graham Brookman from the Food Forest and Zannie Flanagan former CEO of the Willunga Farmers’ Market to develop and launch the Adelaide Showground Farmers’ Market in 2006, with financial support from the Society.

“The Market has been a major success operating continuously including throughout the pandemic as an essential service,” Mr Rothwell said.

The Society Board has appointed Stillwell Select Recruitment to find a new Chief Executive Officer.