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A new chapter

After four years as executive director of South Surrey and White Rock Chamber of Commerce

While Doug Hart is looking forward to a quieter, more relaxed lifestyle after leaving his post as the local chamber of commerce’s executive director next month, he admits he won’t be able to fully disappear from the scenes.

If his first exit from the workforce is any indication – he was already fully re-emerged in the corporate world two years after taking early retirement in 2004 – it shouldn’t be long before the White Rock resident is active in the community once again.

“My character is such that I’m an A-type individual,” he said. “I have to keep myself busy and doing things. I don’t think I could ever see myself retiring.”

Despite his drive, Hart said it is time to pull back on the reins.

“I feel I need a break, a time off or what I would call a sabbatical. I’m looking for more of a balanced lifestyle.”

The change of pace comes after four years as executive director of the South Surrey and White Rock Chamber of Commerce, just one of a number of top positions he has held in a business career that started in the late ‘60s.

After graduating with a bachelor of commerce at UBC – and marrying wife Paula in 1967 – Hart moved to Toronto where he was born and raised, and worked in senior marketing for General Electric before taking a job with the Ontario government.

In the late ‘80s – when sons David and Andrew were 10 and 12 years old – the couple moved back to the west coast, settling in South Surrey while Hart worked in management for a life insurance company.

Taking early retirement seven years ago afforded him the opportunity to design and build a house on Columbia Avenue in White Rock – where he and Paula still live – and travel to Italy.

Before long he was back in the game, working with a consulting company that placed him as temporary executive director of the Delta Chamber of Commerce for one year.

After his time was up, he accepted an invitation to replace Jim Dyson at the local chamber in 2007. It was a role he felt suited for due to his close connection to the Peninsula.

“I believe if you’re going to be an executive director of the chamber, you have to live in the community because you have to have your finger on the pulse.”

Hart said he took pleasure in meeting different types of businesses, advocating issues important to them and working with various levels of government on their behalf.

“I enjoyed the opportunity to work with the community to try and help businesses in the community. It’s very rewarding.”

As with any job, there were also frustrations. Hart said the local chamber is in a unique position because it works with two cities, and “the priorities of the chamber aren’t always the priorities of the two city halls.”

Also, the bureaucracy involved with running a non-profit makes for a much slower pace than what he has been used to in the corporate world.

Despite the challenges, Hart said the chamber celebrated some significant accomplishments during his tenure, including relocating the office from King George Boulevard in South Surrey to Russell Avenue in White Rock, developing a strategic plan, launching a rebranding program and creating the chamber’s own newspaper.

With his final day scheduled for March 31 – the chamber is yet to hire a replacement – Hart said he is now looking forward to being more flexible.

“My plans are still to be involved in the community. I still feel like I have an excellent contribution to make,” he said, noting he would like to volunteer and participate in the chamber’s committees.

“I’m not going away. I’m still going to be here, but I’m not going to be involved five days a week.”

He plans to focus on keeping fit – while also making use of his close proximity to White Rock beach – by walking the promenade, and is to spend more time with his children, granddaughter and mother, who lives at Peace Arch Hospital’s Al Hogg Pavilion and will be turning 95 next month.

While it is also important to him to travel and experience other cultures, Hart said he will always call the Peninsula home.

“I’ve travelled all over the world and living here on the West Coast and in White Rock is the ideal. I wouldn’t change that for the world.”

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