Ann Simonds, who left General Mills in December after a 21-year career, has been named interim president of the Hennepin Theatre Trust (HTT).

She will serve until a replacement is named for founding president and CEO Tom Hoch, who announced last fall that he would retire.

Hoch has been at the helm of the Minneapolis theater group for 20 years. His last day is Feb. 3.

When Hoch, 62, announced his retirement last fall, he said he planned to stay until a replacement was named in mid-2017, but he is leaving a little earlier "to explore other opportunities," according to a statement.

"The trust is in good shape, and we have a lot of good things on our plate, beyond theater and theatrical presentations," he said in an interview Tuesday.

"I've been lucky to work with so many great people over the years. No one ever does something like this alone," he said.

An enthusiastic civic booster, Hoch is considered a potential contender to join the race for mayor of Minneapolis.

A graduate of Smith College and Harvard University, Simonds, 53, ended her run at General Mills as the company's chief marketing officer.

She is HTT's incoming board chair and has been on the board since 2011 and will be instrumental in the search for a permanent replacement, which the board expects to name sometime this year.

In the meantime, she wanted to "celebrate Tom, who deserves our gratitude for his many years of service."

The trust, which owns four theaters on Hennepin Avenue, is Minnesota's leading presenter of Broadway touring shows and also is involved in programs to boost and improve downtown Minneapolis.

Twitter: @rohanpreston