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Donna Lee Demarcke, the general manager of Aurora Ford in Hay River – pictured in 2018 holding one of the special licence plates for the Arctic Winter Games – will soon be promoting all of the Northwest Territories in a new position as CEO of NWT Tourism.
NNSL file photo

A well-known and long-time resident of Hay River is heading to Yellowknife to become the chief executive officer of NWT Tourism.

Donna Lee Demarcke, the general manager of Aurora Ford, will begin her new role on Jan. 4.

“I’m excited and looking forward to the opportunity,” she said. “It’s sad to leave Hay River, but Yellowknife is not that far away.”

Demarcke said she is looking forward to promoting tourism in the NWT.

“I have a real true passion for the Northwest Territories,” she said. “I think that the people and the landscape and what we have to offer up here is pretty phenomenal, and I’ve always been a promoter of what we have. So the opportunity to actually have it as a job I think was pretty fantastic. And I’m a salesperson at heart, so to be able to sell and promote what we have up here, and just to combine my love for the Northwest Territories and my love for sales, it’s a perfect fit for me.”

Demarcke has worked at Aurora Ford for 30 years, beginning in 1990 when the business was known as Kingland Ford.

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“I was in high school,” she recalled. “I started as an afterschool receptionist.”

Demarcke said it was not an easy decision to leave Aurora Ford, especially its employees and her customers.

“I’ve been very fortunate in my job with the dealership that I’ve been able to meet a lot of the people across the North, and a lot of the tourism operators have been my customers over the years,” she noted. “So I’m familiar with some of what it’s like to do business in the North. So I think it kind of lends well to going into this next position.”

Demarcke, who was born in Churchill, Manitoba, moved to Hay River with her family 33 years ago.

She became very well known in the community, both through her work and as a member of town council for nine years.

Her first three-year term on council began when she was in her early 20s. She also later served another six years, including five years as deputy mayor, up until two years ago.

“I’m a pretty big advocate for Hay River,” Demarcke said. “I have a big love for the community. I’ve volunteered and worked trying to do whatever I could for the community along the way. So I think it was a little bit of a surprise for people that I was actually going to leave the community. But I’m going to definitely be bringing some of that Hay River spirit with me to the north side of the lake, that’s for sure.”

Demarcke’s appointment as CEO of NWT Tourism was announced in a Nov. 26 news release from Harold Grinde, chairperson of the organization’s board of directors.

Grinde noted that Demarcke will bring her 30 years of experience in private sector business in the NWT to her new role.

“Whether she is administering budgets, is overseeing recruitment and retention to build strong teams, or is building new client bases to drive sales, Donna Lee’s approach has been to work with staff, partners and governments to build winning conditions for whatever project she is leading,” Grinde stated.

NWT Tourism is a not-for-profit organization, which is responsible to over 200 tourism business members in the territory.

It is the destination marketing organization responsible for promoting the NWT’s tourism products locally, nationally and internationally.

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