Maxine DeHart is constantly in the public eye.
“Yet, I don’t really like the limelight,” she said. “I do it for the hotel and the community.”
As the 22nd of 40 to be profiled in this season of Top Forty Over 40, DeHart is one of the most recognized names, right up there with West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater, Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission director Corie Griffiths, Kelowna Rockets president Bruce Hamilton and former city councillor and Andre's Electronics Experts president Andre Blanleil.
DeHart is a Kelowna city councillor and is the sales and marketing director at the Ramada Hotel. She also writes a weekly newspaper column.
“I’m a pretty open book,” said DeHart. “Everyone knows I’m a city councillor, in the media and work at the hotel.”
Her column runs every Wednesday in The Capital News.
Her highest-profile charitable effort is no doubt the Maxine DeHart Drive-Through Breakfast for the United Way.
Celebrating its 19th anniversary this year, the October event sees hundreds pick up a bagged breakfast at a drive-thru set up at the Ramada Hotel, with all the donations going to the local United Way.
“We’ve raised over half a million dollars over 18 years for the United Way,” DeHart said. “Last year alone, we raised $60,000. That’s $20,000 an hour because we only do it for the three hours, 6 a.m. to 9 a.m.”
DeHart decided to do the fundraiser in 1998 when she was chair of the local United Way campaign.
“I heard of the Sutton Place Hotel in Vancouver doing something similar and I though it was a tremendous idea,” she said. “That first year, we had 15 sponsors.
“Now we have 150. Everything is donated, so all the donations from the breakfast can go to the United Way.”
All the money DeHart makes from her weekly column also goes to charity.
Speaking of her column, DeHart never thought she’d have such a high-profile media sideline.
“When they called me up in 1998 and asked me to write a business column, I told them I couldn’t because I’m not a writer, I don’t know how to write and I’m not a good writer,” she said. “They said that didn’t matter. They wanted my personality and my connections. They told me just to write as I talk, and that works.”
It was talk about chickens on apartment and condominium balconies that got DeHart into municipal politics.
“I remember hearing that possibility and thinking it just didn’t make common sense,” said DeHart. “I’d been asked before about running (for elected office), but that was the trigger. I came home and told Chris (her husband) I’m going to run.
“I have something to give back.”
DeHart was first elected to city council in 2011 and was re-elected in 2014. She characterizes herself on council as the tough business person with a social conscience.
“It’s a great balance,” she said.
DeHart moved to Kelowna from Calgary in 1971 with her husband. Even armed with a business diploma from Mount Royal College, she found Kelowna’s job market at the time tough.
In 1972, she considered herself lucky to land an administration job at Scotiabank.
A decade later, her second husband, Chris, who works for Telus, was transferred to Vancouver and DeHart went along to work on the 34th floor of Scotia Tower in commercial loans.
“I enjoyed the work, but not Vancouver,” she said. “We were happy to move back to Kelowna when Chris was transferred back to Kelowna two years later.”
The re-entry to Kelowna would also mark a change in career for DeHart. Terry and Clarence Rempel, owners of the Ramada Hotel and clients of hers at Scotiabank, asked her if she wanted a job as convention manager.
She did and worked the job for seven years until the early 1990s, when she wanted to make the transition to hotel sales.
The Ramada said it didn’t have a sales position, so DeHart took a job in sales at the Village Green Hotel in Vernon.
Two months later, Clarence Rempel contacted DeHart and told her they’d created a sales job for her back at the Ramada.
She returned to the Ramada and is 2 1/2 decades into a successful career selling the hotel as the place to stay to business people, corporate groups, convention groups, leisure travellers, sports teams, bus tours, golf and ski groups, wine tourers and airline crews.
Editor’s note: Every week in this space with Top Forty Over 40 we profile a business person over the age of 40 who is having a great career and giving back through mentoring and volunteering. The series is presented by BDO Accountants and Consultants, Kelowna Chamber of Commerce and The Daily Courier. If you know of a deserving over 40 you’d like to nominate, send an email to TopForty@KelownaChamber.org.