Smokies Life launches national search for next CEO


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 U.S. 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.

“With our current CEO Laurel Rematore retiring after more than eight years of strong leadership, we are excited to bring on a new leader to steward the organization as we continue to grow and expand our support for the park,” says Mitch Crisp, Smokies Life board member and chair of the search committee.

The longtime nonprofit partner of Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) 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.

“The incoming CEO must be a strategic, collaborative leader who understands governmental and business partnerships,” says Crisp. “The ideal candidate has the skills and experience to sustain the organization’s success as an industry leader in interpretive retail and publishing.”

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

Smokies Life CEO position profile

Great Smokies

Welcome Center

Hours of Operation

(subject to change)

Open year round (closed December 25)

January - February

Open Daily 9:00 am - 4:30 pm

March - November

Open Daily 9:00 am - 5:00 pm

Open Daily 9:00 am - 4:30 pm

The Great Smokies Welcome Center is located on U.S. 321 in Townsend, TN, 2 miles from the west entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Visitors can get information about things to see and do in and around the national park and shop from a wide selection of books, gifts, and other Smokies merchandise. Daily, weekly, and annual parking tags for the national park are also available.

Physical Address

7929 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway Townsend TN 37882


865.436.7318 Ext 320