Editor’s note: In 2020 it should be no surprise that more and more woman hold positions of power. Whether it’s business, politics, sports or the non-profit sector, woman continue to achieve new milestones. This story is part of a series of stories highlighting 16 women in Kelowna who are leaders in their fields. You can read all of their stories in our annual publication called Women in Business in the Feb. 28 issue of Kelowna Capital News.
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Maxine DeHart loves people.
She’s always felt as though she had something to offer her community whether it was through the positions she’s held, boards she’s sat on and committee she’s chaired.
And that list is quite extensive.
Currently, the woman commonly known around town simply as “Max” is the director of sales at Kelowna’s Ramada Hotel and Conference Centre, a city councillor, a director of the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce, campaign ambassador for Okanagan College’s new health and sciences building, a director of the Central Okanagan Regional District, an honourary lieutenant colonel with the British Columbia Dragoons and a weekly business columnist with Kelowna Capital News.
That’s in addition to nearly 30 previously held titles over the past 30 years.
DeHart grew up in Calgary, Alta., where her father was a successful hotelier, introducing her to the ins and outs of the hospitality business.
Moving to Kelowna at 19 years old, DeHart began working in the banking sector. She was quickly drawn into the hospitality business herself, becoming the convention manager for the Ramada, where she still works today.
“Little by little, getting out there and going to different events that I could, that’s how I made my way,” she said. “Some people can’t do that because they’re not inclined; they’re always inclined to go to people they know. I’m inclined to go introduce myself to somebody I don’t know.”
All of these meet and greets have led to DeHart having one of the most recognizable faces in Kelowna, as well as one of its densest Rolodexes.
And anybody who has a chance to grace the pages of DeHart’s hefty list of contacts can always expect to be met with a friendly “hello” and a more-than-likely hug upon the next face-to-face meeting.
“Always return your calls, always return your emails,” she said. “That’s been my greatest strength: accessibility. People know I’m not just this person out there. When they see my picture they know I’m really real.”
Her realness and community notoriety is what pushed her into municipal politics in 2011.
“I don’t like the cliche when people say, ‘I want to make a difference,’” she said. “I thought I had something to offer, with my business background here and knowing the people I do, that’s the greatest strength, is knowing people in the community.
Now in her third term as a city councillor, DeHart doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.
“I don’t mind being busy,” she said. “Like everyone else, there’s a few days you think, ‘oh boy, I’d really like to have nothing to do.’
“But that’s not reality — until you’re retired. I don’t know if I’ll ever be retired.”
As long as DeHart is in the public eye there’s no doubt she will continue to be stopped on the street by people who recognize her loud wardrobe or distinctive voice.
“I attract people,” she said as a matter-of-fact. “I’m very pleased about that. People can say ‘hey, I know who you are.’ It’s awesome.”
While most people might shy away from that amount of attention, DeHart thrives in it and in many ways is the closest thing to ‘Kelowna famous’.
“Kelowna infamous,” she corrected.