Baker named CNB chairman, Garett new CEO
Bill John Baker
CATOOSA – The Cherokee Nation Businesses board of directors has named former Principal Chief Bill John Baker as CNB’S executive chairman, effective immediately, while former Executive Vice President Chuck Garrett has been named the entity’s new CEO.
According to a CNB press release, Baker’s position will be an ambassador to the larger business community and federal government, senior most advisor to the CNB board of directors and will be tasked with setting strategic vision and long-term benchmarks for the company.
“I started my career in Tahlequah as a small businessman 50 years ago, before dedicating my life to the Cherokee people, first as a tribal councilor and then as principal chief for the past eight years,” Baker said. “Serving the Cherokee people in elected office has been the honor of a lifetime. Now, to come full circle is both a new challenge, and a new honor. I’m excited for the opportunity to continue to serve and I thank (Principal) Chief (Chuck) Hoskin and the CNB board of directors for the privilege of serving in this new role and for their confidence in me.”
Hoskin said Baker has been a friend and mentor to him for more than 25 years and praised Baker’s business acumen.
“During his tenure as chief, he took our tribe from an economic impact of just $1.06 billion in 2012 to $2.17 billion in 2018,” Hoskin said. “His leadership helped secure a joint venture with Indian Health Service that will bring $105 million per year into our health system and the economy of northeast Oklahoma. He established the first tribal medical school partnership with OSU Center for Health Sciences, so we can train our own doctors and keep those highly trained and well-paid professionals in rural Oklahoma. He brought large retailers like Amazon and Macy’s to northeast Oklahoma, along with manufacturers like Greenheck and Sofidel. With all the strides he’s made in luring large businesses to northeast Oklahoma, he’s also made sure small businesses are supported. Bill John Baker created business incubator programs, mentorships and strengthened our TERO (Tribal Employment Rights Office) process. With all this success as an elected official, I’m more than optimistic at what he can do as a business leader.”
Garrett replaces Shawn Slaton, who has served as CEO since 2011. Garrett is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma and Harvard Law School. A native of Muskogee, with family ties in Adair County, and a Cherokee Nation citizen, Garrett worked in real estate investment, asset management and investment banking prior to returning to Oklahoma to join CNB in 2013.
“CNB is a company with competitive advantages that are so unique to a tribal business, that the opportunities are nearly endless. I couldn’t be more grateful and optimistic to be taking the helm at this time,” Garrett said. “However, my time at CNB has also taught me the deeper meaning of purpose. There really is no greater job than helping generate profits for the benefit of our people, to help make lives better for our citizens. Every day CNB employees come to work, we know the work we put in and the money we help generate puts a roof over someone’s head, sends a young person to college or helps our loved ones with a medical treatment that may be life-saving. As a Cherokee Nation citizen, I can honestly say taking the role of CEO at Cherokee Nation Businesses is the responsibility and the honor of a lifetime.”
Hoskin said to adequately provide for CN citizens and expand services and programs, CNB leaders must be vigilant in pursing new ways to expand CNB’s business portfolio.
“Chuck Garrett’s national and international business experience across multiple sectors make him the right Cherokee for the job at the right time. I know he’ll do a fantastic job for our people,” Hoskin said. “I’m also confident his skills, combined with Bill John Baker’s ability to form coalitions for the purpose of achieving long-range goals, will be the recipe for a winning success.”
According to the release, Slaton will remain at CNB where he has served in various gaming, accounting and executive roles since 1997. Under his leadership, revenue generated by the tribe’s businesses has grown to more than $1 billion, with nearly 40 percent of revenue being generated through the tribe’s non-gaming businesses.
“Shawn has served CNB admirably for more than 20 years, starting when the Cherokee Nation operated only bingo halls and smoke shops,” Hoskin said. “In addition to our 10 gaming and hospitality properties, growing museums and cultural offerings and federal contracting all over the globe, we are actively and successfully pursuing our first commercial gaming venture outside of Oklahoma. Shawn Slaton has been a large part of that success over the years and we appreciate his service. To continue to provide for our citizens, we must be vigilant in pursing new ways to expand our business portfolio, and we are pleased Shawn will stay on board while we move through this transition and into the next phase of CNB’s success in new and emerging markets.”