Northern Development elects new board officers

April 20, 2018

April 20, 2018 – Prince George | Northern Development Initiative Trust announces the election of new officers to its board of directors, voted in at the annual general meeting.

New board chair

Gerry Thiessen was elected by the board as the new chair and is currently serving his third term as mayor of the District of Vanderhoof. Incoming chair Thiessen has been a member of Northern Development’s board for six years and the chair of the Prince George Regional Advisory Committee for three years. He also serves as vice-chair of the Regional District of Bulkley Nechako and is the past chair of the UNBC Northern Medical Programs Trust. Thiessen has always been very active having held many leadership positions in the community including sports groups, the 4-H Club, his Church, Rotary and the Cattlemen’s Association. In 1995, he served as president of the Cariboo Real Estate Association, in 1998 as president of the BC Real Estate Association and in 2005 as president of Canada’s largest single trade association, the Canadian Real Estate Association. He is also a founding director of the Washington D.C. based International Housing Coalition. A devoted family man, celebrating 45 years with his wife Leslie, most of their children and all thirteen of their grandchildren live close to the family home.

After nearly ten years and countless volunteer hours as chair or officer of Northern Development’s board, Evan Saugstad stepped down from the position, but remains on the board as a provincially appointed member. Saugstad was appointed to the Trust’s board in 2008 and was a founding member of the Trust’s Northeast Regional Advisory Committee in 2004.

New vice-chair

Thomas Hoffman was elected by the board as the new vice-chair and has been a provincially appointed member of Northern Development’s board for five years. 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.

Tom Hoffman

After six years as vice-chair of Northern Development’s board, Gerald Wesley stepped down from the position, but remains on the board as a provincially appointed member. Wesley was appointed to the Trust’s board in 2010.

New finance committee chair

Wendy Benyk was elected by the board as the new finance committee chair and has been a provincially appointed member of Northern Development’s board for four years. 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’s in science from Brandon University and her Chartered Accountant certification from the Manitoba Institute of Chartered Accountants.

Wendy Benyk

After six years as chair of Northern Development’s finance committee, Danny Schilds stepped down from the position, but remains on the board as a provincially appointed member. Schilds was appointed to the Trust’s board in 2011.

Additionally, Prince George mayor Lyn Hall and North Coast Regional District director Michael Racz were acclaimed as members of the board’s finance committee, and Cariboo Regional District chair Margo Wagner was acclaimed as a member of the executive committee.


Gerry Thiessen, incoming chair, Northern Development Initiative Trust

I would like to thank Northern Development’s board of directors for entrusting me with this incredible opportunity. The Trust has made such impact over the past 13 years and I look forward to working with the board as we make decisions to help strengthen the North. I would like to thank Evan Saugstad for his great leadership throughout his term as board chair.

Evan Saugstad, outgoing chair, Northern Development Initiative Trust

Thank you for the support and trust given to me during my term as chair. I am proud of our growth, our informed decisions and accomplishments for the benefit of our region. Thank you all for putting your names forward for the executive. It is a joy and privilege to work with everyone involved in this organization as together we strive to make the North a better place. The Trust is in good hands and I look forward to continuing as a director on the board and working for the betterment of our diverse region.

Joel McKay, CEO, Northern Development Initiative Trust

Congratulations to Mayor Thiessen on his election as Chair of the Trust’s Board of Directors. His passion for the Trust and service ethic will be a boon to our organization as we continue to find ways to generate value for communities throughout Northern B.C. I would also like to thank former Chair Evan Saugstad for his years of dedication to the Trust – we are better because of him. 


About Northern Development Initiative Trust

Northern Development has a passion for growing the economy of central and northern British Columbia. Communities, First Nations and businesses of the north are leaders in creating jobs, new revenues and improving the quality of life in the region, and the Trust is dedicated to supporting their growth. The Trust combines funding with smart thinking and since 2005 has found more than 3,100 ways to say “yes” to projects that help the region thrive.