Ketcher serving Cherokee Nation as Community Services leader
Cherokee Nation citizen Martha Ketcher is working for the CN as Community Services’ executive director after working 30 years with the Indian Health Service. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH – After 30 years with the Indian Health Service, Cherokee Nation citizen Martha Ketcher made her way back home to serve the CN as executive director of Community Services.
Since June, Ketcher has led a “myriad” of CN programs.
“My job is essentially to provide leadership, direction and oversight of a myriad of programs like the roads and transportation department, the Office of Environmental Health and Engineering, youth development and adult resident services, and instilling our culture and our heritage with our youth and providing a cultural aspect to our adult residents,” Ketcher said.
Ketcher said she aids in leadership management, compliance and provides day-to-day operations to ensure that all documents are processed in a timely manner with ongoing projects in the roads and environmental health departments.
She said it’s always been her goal to return to work for the CN after her 30-year stint with IHS.
“I’ve been here with the Cherokee Nation since the first of June. It has always my goal to circle back, to come back to my roots. This is home. The Cherokee Nation was the first ones to give me the opportunity to serve in a public service position,” she said.
She said she first worked for the CN upon graduating from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. After completing a business internship, she was hired as a staff accountant. She worked for the tribe for eight years before going to IHS.
“My goal was to serve here at the tribe. God had other plans for me I felt like and it was to go serve 30 tribes. So as my career progressed through the Indian Health Service, I ultimately became the director of Indian health for the region where I had the opportunity to work with 30 different tribes providing health care, standing up clinics, establishing resources and appropriations for new tribes as they became recognized. It was very fulfilling,” Ketcher said.
Now as Community Services executive director, Ketcher said she hopes to impact CN services by using her previous IHS experience.
“I hope to accomplish and hope to provide and expedite services, number one. Secondly is that our programs that are within our department provide and make huge impact on communities with the roads, bridges, water systems and the individualized programs like our youth and our adult resident program. Integrating our systems internally within the Cherokee Nation, we’ve already been able to integrate and add services by working and collaborating with the (CN) HERO project, providing education to our coordinators who provide hands-on services to our youth,” she said.
She said with the HERO project, which is part of the CN’s Children’s Behavioral Health, she is able to help provide training for coordinators regarding youth mental health first aid.
“I want them to be able to recognize signs. Suicide prevention is another example of our initiative. So it’s integrating health. Considering I come from an Indian health background, I’m integrating those services with our cultural programs as well,” Ketcher said.
Since arrving, Ketcher said it’s important to ensure that her department has a “strong infrastructure” to be accountable and transparent for the resources she manages. She also wants to ensure internal control so that checks and balances are in place and to provide a “forecast of resources” that might be needed throughout the year.
“I have just been blessed in my career and the ability to serve as a public servant. I want to be able to open the doors for others. The doors have been opened for me; I want to hold the doors open for others as well,” she said.