Board of Directors

Thomas Hoffman
- acting chair
Tom Hoffman

Thomas Hoffman was elected by the board in 2018 as vice-chair and has been a provincially appointed member of Northern Development’s board for since 2013.

Hoffman is the manager, external and stakeholder relations for Tolko Industries Limited, having been with the company 20 years. As an active member of his community, Hoffman serves as a member of the board for Community Futures Cariboo Chilcotin, president of the Columneetza Parent Advisory Committee, and member of the Williams Lake Rotary Club. In the past, he has served as a school trustee for the Fort Vermilion School Division, deputy mayor and town councillor for the Town of High Level, chair of the Mackenzie Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), and more.

Hoffman holds his Bachelor of Science in Forestry from the University of Alberta and is a licensed private pilot.

Wendy Benyk
- finance committee chair
Wendy Benyk

Wendy Benyk was appointed to the Trust's board in 2014 and was elected acclaimed as finance committee chair in 2018.

Benyk is the chief executive officer of Lakes District Maintenance Ltd., a highway road and bridge maintenance company. Previously, Benyk was a Senior Audit Manager at KPMG and BDO Dunwoody.

Active in her community, she is also Director of ICA BC Benevolent Fund and Vice President of Burns Lake and District Community Foundation. Benyk was previously vice president of BC Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association and president of Canadian Parents for French. She holds her Bachelor in Science from Brandon University and her Chartered Accountant certification from the Manitoba Institute of Chartered Accountants.

Lori Ackerman

Mayor Lori Ackerman is a proud resident of the Peace Region who has lived in the area since 1980, most of those in the “Energetic City” of Fort St. John.

Lori was first elected to City Council in 2005 and started serving as a Director for the Peace River Regional District in 2006. Lori represents the community on many local, regional and provincial boards and committees.

Since becoming Mayor in November 2011, Lori has been appointed to the Province’s Local Government RCMP Contract Management Committee and is a member of the Steering Committee for the BC Mayor’s Caucus.  Lori presides as the Chair of the Northern Development Initiative Trust’s Northeast Regional Advisory Committee and in 2009 was nominated by her peers to be one of the elected officials to represent Northeast BC on the Northern Development Initiative Trust Board.

Over the years, her volunteer work includes, Emergency Social Services; Scouts Canada; was a founding member of the United Way Cabinet in Fort St John and chaired the community’s Homeless Shelter committee to name a few.

Lori’s background is in marketing, economic development and small business counseling and she is a graduate of the Institute of Corporate Directors’ Governance Essentials Program.

She held the position of Executive Director of Sci-Tech North, a non-profit organization that offered support to entrepreneurs and innovators in the Northeast from 2002 to 2013.  Prior to this, Lori was the Family Service Director at the Salvation Army giving her a robust perspective of the community.

In recognition of her community involvement in 2002 and 2012, Lori received the Queen’s Jubilee Medal and in 2005, she received the Silver Acorn for her distinguished service to Scouting.

Lori is a firm believer that BC can harvest it’s natural resources and with the use of innovative BC born technology, doing it more efficiently, effectively and leave a lighter footprint.

Taylor Bachrach

Born and raised in Northern B.C., Taylor Bachrach was elected mayor of Smithers in 2011 and is currently serving his third term. Prior to that, he served one term as a municipal councillor in the Village of Telkwa. Taylor is a director of the Bulkley Nechako Regional District and Northwest Regional Hospital District. As well, he is the chair of the BC Municipal Climate Leadership Council, President of Go By Bike BC, and a member of the BC Government’s Climate Solutions and Clean Growth Advisory Council. In addition to his municipal roles, Taylor owns and operates Bachrach Communications, a small consultancy specializing in web development and graphic design. He holds a bachelor of science in geography and a certificate in executive leadership. Taylor and his wife Michelle live in Smithers with their two daughters, Ella and Maddie.

Gary Foster

After completing his second year at Carlton University in the bachelor of science degree program in the spring of 1979, Gary left Ontario bound for Ft Nelson where his brother was posted with the RCMP. Gary worked at Takama Forest Products before completing the UBC real estate course and eventually forming his own company and becoming self-employed. While working at Takama he met his wife Sandra and had two children, Garrett and Lee, who both graduated Ft Nelson Secondary school and went on to complete degrees from UNBC. Gary is an active member of the community and has sponsored the Fort Nelson Rotary Easter Breakfast, he has sat on several  boards including the BC Property assessment review panel (PARP), the executive board of the Rotary Club , and the board of the Ft Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce. Gary  had the privilege of being an alternate director for electoral area B for many years and was elected to Ft Nelson Town council in 1999. In 2018, Gary was elected Mayor of the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality.

He enjoys the great recreational opportunities offered in the Northern Rockies including golfing and fishing .

Lyn Hall

Mayor Lyn Hall has been an active member of the Prince George community for over 30 years. Lyn first entered local politics in 2001 when he won a seat as a school trustee on the Prince George School Board. He spent 10 years on the board holding various positions, including chair and vice-chair.

In 2011, Lyn ran and successfully won a seat on Prince George City Council. As a Councillor, Lyn was a member of several committees and community groups. He ran successful campaigns for Mayor of Prince George in 2014 and 2018.

Carol Leclerc

Carol Leclerc, first elected as Mayor of Terrace in 2014, served as a Terrace City Councillor from 2002-2011. She has served as a Director and Alternate Director for the Regional District of Kitimat Stikine, Chair and Vice Chair for the Northwest Regional Hospital District, Director for Northern Health, Director for BC Transit, Director for Northern Development Initiative Trust, and as a member of Northern Development Initiative Trust’s Northwest Regional Advisory Committee. She has her Masters of Arts in Professional Communication from Royal Roads University.

Carol is passionate about her community having served with many committees and organizations. Carol enjoys walking, hiking, and dragon boating and is an active member of her Rotary Club.

Bev Playfair

Bev Playfair has lived in Fort St. James for 40 years and has been married for almost 39 of those years. Bev has three grown children that are all married and nine grandchildren. Bev has always been very involved in our community volunteering with minor hockey, the Nancy Green Ski League, all the school PACs and the Chamber Of Commerce, to name a few.

Bev started her career as a Certified Dental Assistant and worked for approximately 18 years. From there she purchased the local flower shop in town and added a complete garden centre which kept her busy for 21 years. From 2008-2011, Bev was a councillor on the District Council. While she was a councillor, Bev held many portfolios, one of which she is very proud of: the District representative for the downtown revitalization project that the Chamber of Commerce had received $1.6 million for. In 2012, Bev retired and enjoyed staying at home doing things that I had never had time for. She felt that she has a lot to offer our community and it was the right time to step back into politics, so here she is as the Mayor of Fort St. James.

Evan Saugstad

Evan Saugstad was appointed to the Northern Development board in 2008 and was the board chair from 2008 to 2018. He was a founding member of the Northeast Regional Advisory Committee. He retired in December 2011 as the Mayor of Chetwynd after nine years in the role. When not busy with community politics, he works as a community coordinator with Spectra Energy on special projects and is now based out of Fort St. John.  He has lived and worked in three of the four geographic areas of the Northern Development Initiative Trust; Bella Coola (born and raised), Prince Rupert, Atlin and Chetwynd/Fort St. John.

Evan’s past experiences include chairing the South Peace Economic Development Commission and Chetwynd and Area Economic Development Commission, and as a director of the Peace River Regional District. He is currently a director of the Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society (STARS), headquartered in Calgary.

Life work experiences have included forestry planning and engineering, heavy equipment operator, pulp mill worker, air attack officer for forest fires, Federal water lands and forest inspector, trapper, professional big game and fishing guide and community consultation specialist.

Danny Schilds

Danny Schilds has worked for more than twenty-five years in the family owned Aspol Ford dealership in Dawson Creek. Previously, he taught grades five through eleven in the South Peace. He holds a Bachelor of Education from the University of Alberta. Schilds is currently the chairman of the board of directors for the Northern Lights College Foundation. As well, he sits on the board of the BC Ford Dealer Marketing Association.

Schilds was appointed to the Trust's board in 2010 and served as finance committee chair for six years.

Margo Wagner
Margo Wagner

Margo Wagner has been the Cariboo Regional District (CRD) Electoral Area H Director since 2011. Wagner has served as the Vice Chair of the Cariboo-Chilcotin Regional Hospital District since 2012. She has been the Chair of the South Cariboo Rural Caucus for the past four years and is the current CRD’s Finance Committee Chair; a position she has held for the past two years.

Director Wagner has played an integral role in the Interior Health strategic planning group in the recruitment and retention of health care professionals to the Cariboo-Chilcotin. Wagner is the only elected official on this inter-divisional strategic marketing committee. In 2014, Director Wagner became a member of the Orange Shirt Day Committee. Orange Shirt Day, which is an annual event on September 30, is held in recognition of the harm the residential school system did to children's sense of self-esteem and well-being, and as an affirmation of our commitment to ensure that everyone around us matters. She also serves on an active working group within the CRD to improve working relationships with First Nations.

Director Wagner is the Safety Officer and a First Responder instructor for Forest Grove Volunteer Fire Department and a retired Registered Nurse. She is the President of Canim Lake Community Club and Captain of the Canim Lake Citizens on Patrol. With a keen interest in hockey, Wagner has held positions on numerous Boards for Hockey Alberta for 13 years. Margo and her husband Brian, have two adult children, both of whom still live in Alberta.

Sally Watson

Sally has lived in the 70 Mile House area since 1986 and is committed to the community and the region, promoting initiatives that improve the economy and communities throughout central and northern B.C. In addition to her role as a Director of Northern Development, Sally also sits on the board of the Southern Interior Beetle Action Coalition and is a member of several committees for the Thompson Nicola Regional District, including the Solid Waste Management Committee, Regional Parks and Economic Development Committee and Policy Review Committee. Sally has been a member of the Cariboo Chilcotin Lillooet Regional Advisory Committee since 2005. In addition to her community work, Sally is a Canada Post mail carrier in 70 Mile House. Sally also enjoys graphic design, riding her horse and spending time with her soon to be seven grandchildren.

Gerald Wesley

Gerald Wesley is the chief negotiator for the Tsimshian First Nations Treaty Society in northwestern British Columbia. Wesley was appointed to the Trust's board in 2010 and served six years as vice-chair.

He is past director for the Northwest Community College, Kalum Ventures Ltd., and the Northwest Tribal Treaty Nations in northern B.C. Wesley has previously served as a director on the Federal Advisory Committee on Softwood Lumber Community Assistance Initiative, BC Transmission Corporation, North Coast Museum Society, and is the past secretary-treasurer of the Tsimshian Tribal Council. He is a graduate of the Institute of Corporate Director’s Governance Essentials Program for Directors of Not-For-Profit Organizations.

He was an elected task group member (political executive office) of the First Nations Summit and served as the chairman of the First Nations Health Committee under the structure of the First Nations Summit. Wesley served as one of the original members for the University of Victoria, Administration of Aboriginal Governments Program Advisory Committee from 1986 until 1995.

He spent seven years in the forest industry before moving on to become executive director/band manager for the Kitamaat Village Council (Haisla) and then executive director of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council. He and his wife Angela are partners in Wes-Can Advisory Services which has provided consulting services since 1992 for First Nations and other governments. Gerald is a hereditary chieftan from the Kitsumkalum First Nation just outside of Terrace, B.C. and in his free time, Wesley can be found hunting, trapping or fishing within his traditional territories in the vicinity of the Kalum and Skeena Rivers.