Skip to main content

WNC Business

Smokies Life launches national search for next CEO

Feb 20, 2024 05:06PM ● By WNC Business
GATLINBURG, TN — Smokies Life, formerly Great Smoky Mountains Association, has launched a national search for its next Chief Executive Officer. This campaign follows a retirement announcement, made public at the end of 2023, from current CEO Laurel Rematore. 

Respected as an innovator throughout the network of US public lands, Rematore has been a constant beacon of insight and growth for many through her involvement in the Public Lands Alliance. In the Smokies, she has championed an inclusive team culture, encouraged open communication, valued diverse perspectives, and fostered strong, collaborative relationships between all the park’s partners. Under her direction, Smokies Life’s retail, wholesale, membership, and publishing programs have flourished, enriching the visitor experience for millions.

The longtime nonprofit partner of Great Smoky Mountains National Park has retained national strategy and search firm Potrero Group to facilitate the search. Smokies Life seeks 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.

Since its inception in 1953, Smokies Life has supported the preservation of GSMNP by promoting greater public understanding and appreciation of the park’s resources through education, interpretation, and research, providing retail, wholesale, and membership programs that enrich the visitor experience. The proceeds from its retail stores, publications, and programs fund the organization’s operations and allow it to give cash and in-kind donations to the park that, combined, exceed $2.8 million annually. Smokies Life’s cumulative financial assistance to GSMNP exceeded $50 million in 2023. 

Smokies Life is works in close coordination with the National Park Service (NPS) and three additional partners to meet park needs: Friends of the Smokies, GSMNP’s philanthropic partner; Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, its outdoor experiential learning partner; and Discover Life in America, its science partner, managing the park’s All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory. 

Information about the position and how to apply can be found online on the Potrero Group website. Interested candidates should apply by March 17, 2024, for priority consideration. To share recommendations or for additional information, please contact Cleveland Justis, Potrero Group Principal, at [email protected]

About Smokies Life:
Smokies Life, formerly Great Smoky Mountains Association, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the scientific, historical, and interpretive activities of Great Smoky Mountains National Park by providing educational products and services to park visitors. 
For more information visit

About Potrero Group:
Potrero Group is honored to coordinate this search on behalf of Smokies Life. Potrero Group provides rigorous strategy, organizational effectiveness, and nuanced executive search services to organizations and leaders making a difference in the world. We are committed to equitable and inclusive practices in all of our work. For more information visit

Source: Smokies Life