The Sonoma County Farm Bureau and its executive director, Lex McCorvey, have parted ways.

McCorvey, who led the county's largest agriculture organization for 12 years, began a leave of absence this week after board members on Tuesday decided not to renew his employment, farm bureau President Tito Sasaki confirmed Wednesday.

"At this time the board has not extended employment beyond the current understanding," Sasaki said. The leave of absence will end Oct. 31, he said.

Asked the reason for McCorvey's departure, Sasaki said, "I think the board wanted to have some new direction." He said he could not elaborate further.

Sasaki said he didn't know how soon the board would begin searching for a new executive director.

Tim Tesconi, a former Press Democrat reporter, was named interim director, Sasaki said. Tesconi, who is married to Press Democrat Executive Editor Catherine Barnett, covered North Coast agriculture for 33 years at the newspaper. For more than six years he has served as the farm bureau's community relations coordinator.

McCorvey was unavailable for comment Wednesday. Staff and two other directors referred all questions about the board's decisions to Sasaki.

McCorvey, a fourth-generation county rancher and former public school teacher, had served since 2001 as one of the most prominent spokesmen for the county's $2 billion agriculture industry.

A 1968 graduate of Santa Rosa High School, he taught vocational agriculture for many years before leaving to work in the business industry. Before joining the farm bureau, McCorvey served as executive director of both the Northern California Engineering Contractors Association and the Sonoma County Manufacturing Group.

With 3,500 members in agriculture and related businesses, the farm bureau takes an advocacy role on matters of interest to the farming industry. It operates educational programs, including the annual Ag Days event for school children at the county fairgrounds, and its political action committee endorses and supports candidates for local elected office.