Archived Outdoors

Smokies Life CEO to retire

Laurel Rematore. File photo Laurel Rematore. File photo

Following CEO Laurel Rematore’s announcement that she intends to retire at the end of 2024, Smokies Life, formerly known as the Great Smoky Mountains Association, has launched a national search for her successor. 

Rematore moved to Eastern Tennessee in January 2016 to lead the organization following the retirement of Terry Maddox, who had spent 26 years in the role. Since 2001, Rematore had worked for organizations supporting Yosemite National Park in California and Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado.

“I have enjoyed tremendously my eight years here at one of the most successful and productive cooperating associations in the National Park System,” Rematore said. “I am excited both about my retirement and about the future of Smokies Life. Through careful planning in collaboration with our board and senior staff leadership, I will be leaving it in capable hands.”

A press release hailed Rematore as a “constant beacon of insight and growth” through her involvement with the Public Lands Alliance, while in the Smokies she “championed an inclusive team culture, encouraged open communication, valued diverse perspectives and fostered strong, collaborative relationships between all the park’s partners.” The nonprofit’s retail, wholesale, membership and publishing programs have “flourished” under her leadership.

Smokies Life has retained national strategy and search firm Potrero Group to facilitate the search for a new CEO — a strategic, transformative leader who will work to deepen the impact of the organization and ensure its interpretive mission, retail services, publishing and partnerships continue to grow and thrive.

“The incoming CEO must be a strategic, collaborative leader who understands governmental and business partnerships,” said Mitch Crisp, Smokies Life board member and chair of the search committee. “The ideal candidate has the skills and experience to sustain the organization’s success as an industry leader in interpretive retail and publishing.”

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Founded in 1953, Smokies Life supports preservation in the Smokies through both education and financial support, giving cash and in-kind donations exceeding $2.8 million annually. Since its inception, Smokies Life has donated more than $50 million to America’s most-visited national park.

More information about the position is available at For priority consideration, interested candidates should apply by March 17. To share recommendations, contact Cleveland Justis at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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