The Laurel of Asheville’s former editor-in-chief joins Great Smoky Mountain Association

Press release from Great Smoky Mountains Association: 

Following its most recent quarterly board of directors meeting, Great Smoky Mountains Association, one of Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s oldest partner organizations, announced two significant changes in top leadership positions.

First, in an effort to more accurately define the role and responsibility of the organization’s leader, the board voted to change Laurel Rematore’s title from executive director to chief executive officer.

“The board felt that the title of chief executive officer is more reflective of the scope of work and responsibility that Laurel has at GSMA,” said board Chair Cheryl Light. “GSMA is a nonprofit business with annual sales of some $9 million; additionally, it is a national leader in the area of educational and interpretive products and publications. The new title is also more consistent with what we see at other partner organizations across the country.”

“In the past, many nonprofits were obtaining funding from just one source (fundraising) such that the top administrator was directing the delivery of programs or services—hence the title executive director,” said Rematore. “GSMA generates the majority of its funding in support of the national park from a more traditional retail and wholesale business model, so the CEO title is consistent with today’s business nomenclature.”

Also at its quarterly board meeting, directors welcomed Frances Figart as GSMA’s incoming interpretive products and services director. Figart was named to the position upon the retirement of 30-year veteran Steve Kemp.

Figart has worked as a consultant in the tourism industry, creating content and devising strategies for brands in the United States, Canada and Central America. She learned about the travel industry as the editor of Courier magazine for the National Tour Association, where she became captivated by the niche fields of ecotourism and sustainable travel. She then worked in Costa Rica and Canada, developing interpretive and educational content to help a small kayak tour operation partner with parks and reserves.

Moving to Western North Carolina in 2013, Figart’s first connection with Great Smoky Mountains National Park was with Discover Life in America as an editor of materials related to the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory. Within a year, she was hired to support the website content development and direct communications for The Laurel of Asheville and helped spawn a sister farm-to-table publication, Plough to Pantry, becoming its editor. In 2016, she was promoted to editor in chief of The Laurel, now in its 12th year. Through both publications, she seized every opportunity to promote the work of those helping to protect and preserve both public and private lands.

Throughout her career, whether focusing on tourism, land or publishing, the people part of her jobs has inspired Figart most.

“Wherever I work I strive to serve as a catalyst for positive change and a greater attainment of potential for both employees and colleagues,” she said. “I’m excited to be involved again with association work and to help this award-winning team in educating visitors and inspiring the preservation of the cultural and natural resources of this incredible national treasure.”

Great Smoky Mountains Association’s nonprofit mission is to enhance greater public understanding, enjoyment and appreciation of the national park. It achieves its mission primarily from the sale of educational publications and from membership dues, from which more than $36 million has been donated to the park’s educational, scientific and historical programs since its inception 65 years ago.

For more information about GSMA, visit or call 888.898.9102.

About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. His writing has appeared in Gulf Coast, the Miracle Monocle, Juked and elsewhere. His debut novel, The Wind Under the Door, is now available.

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