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Explore Fairbanks CEO Deb Hickok announces resignation

Published: Dec. 15, 2020 at 4:19 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Explore Fairbanks President and Chief Executive Officer Deb Hickok has announced her intention to resign from her position with the nonprofit effective June 1st, 2021.

The organization revealed her exit plan in a press release dated December 4th.

According to Hickok, she’s been planning her resignation for a couple of years. “I’m at a period in my life where I just want more flexibility to my work, and a little more time for family and friends, and maybe get a hobby or two,” she said.

Ashley Bradish, Chair of Explore Fairbanks’ Board of Directors, explained that, “Whoever does take on the role of CEO after Deb’s departure will be really lucky to have the team at Explore Fairbanks.”

According to Bradish, the nonprofit’s Board of Directors will finalize the transition team in January before reviewing the CEO job description and developing a hiring timeline. While Bradish said she will not be on the board next year, she expects a decision on Hickok’s replacement before her departure.

She said the board will also determine the qualifications for the position. “First and foremost, they’re going to need to have a passion for the visitor industry and a really good base of knowledge.”

Hickok first joined the organization in 1999. Among her biggest accomplishments with Explore Fairbanks, Hickok mentioned her rebranding of Fairbanks as a four-seasons destination. “When I got to Fairbanks, I realized that, well, winter is approximately seven months out of the year. We have winter conditions, so it seemed to make sense to develop a program that targeted winter tourism.”

This campaign involved expanding direct flights to Fairbanks from overseas markets. “That was a turning point, I think, for winter tourism because there was a psychological boost to people here to say ‘Oh, yeah, we can promote winter. People will come at -40, and there is a reason to come.’ The aurora was the driver, and continues to be the driver.”

Hickok also helped with the effort to have Fairbanks host the Alaska Federation of Natives beginning in the 2000s.

“I’m not sure I’ve met someone who works as hard as Deb,” Bradish said, adding, “It’s really been astounding what Explore Fairbanks has been able to do under her leadership, and it’s something to really be proud of, I think, for all of us in the Interior.”

Hickok identified collaboration, product development and strategic thinking as her strengths.

She also discussed the tourism industry in general. “When we recover, I hope a lot more people join our industry. It’s been the hardest hit industry sector with the pandemic.”

Hickok is not sure what she will do after leaving the position. “People have asked me ‘Well, what are you going to do on June 2nd,’ and... I think I’m going to sleep. But then after that, what I may do is just do summer, just take the summer off. That just sounds super attractive to me.”

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