Choctaw Chief Gary Batton
Gary Batton was born December 15, 1966 in Wichita, Kansas, the youngest of four children, to Earl and Dolly Batton. He graduated from Clayton High School in Clayton, Oklahoma in 1985. He is 15/32 degree Choctaw and is a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.
Gary began working for his tribe in 1987 as a clerk in the Purchasing Department while also attending Southeastern Oklahoma State University. Upon graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management in 1989, he accepted the position of Deputy Director at the Choctaw Nation Housing Authority. While at Housing, he was responsible for the management of Housing Authority operations and established several programs including the Choctaw Nation Drug Elimination Program, Family Investment Center Program and the Choctaw Nation Boys and Girls Club.
In 1997, he was appointed to the position of Executive Director of Health by Chief Gregory E. Pyle. His first undertaking after stepping into the role was replacing the Choctaw Nation Hospital, a former Tuberculosis Center constructed in the 1930s, with a state-of-the-art Choctaw Nation Health Care Center, a 37-bed hospital with a 52-exam room outpatient clinic. It was the first tribally funded health facility in the United States. Upon completion of construction, the $28-million facility was completely debt-free. While Batton was managing the health system, the patient load doubled from 120,000 to over 240,000.
He continued to expand and improve the Choctaw Nation health system by adding clinics in Idabel, Stigler and Atoka and replacing or expanding outdated existing clinics in Hugo, Broken Bow and McAlester. He constructed a new facility for adult inpatient alcohol and drug treatment and a hospitality house for patients traveling long distances for appointments at the health care center in Talihina. He also brought additional services including ophthalmology, orthopedics, cardiology, physical therapy and a mail-order pharmacy in-house.
Batton developed partnerships with other organizations and governments to add even more services to the health system. Through partnerships with OU Health Sciences Center; Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) services began being offered at Talihina and a program for specialized care for high-risk youth with diabetes was started. A partnership with Eastern Oklahoma State College brought about the establishment of a dental hygienist program. A coalition with the State of Oklahoma and other Oklahoma Tribes led to the establishment of REACH, a program to promote physical activity and reduce the lifetime risks of cardiovascular disease.
Concerned by the fact that some tribal businesses were not profitable and impressed with the growth and improvements to the health system, Chief Pyle appointed Gary to the position of Assistant Chief in May 2007. Gary immediately took action to grow the businesses and improve the profitability for the benefit of Choctaw members.
As the Assistant Chief, his focus changed from improving the health system for tribal members to growing and improving the entire Choctaw Nation for the benefit of tribal members. Among his numerous duties, he served as Chairman of the Choctaw Nation Business Committee where his first initiative was the development of an economic plan that consisted of $385 million in construction to expand gaming facilities in Durant, Grant, McAlester and Stringtown. This plan was a boost to the economy in the 10 ½ counties and created more than 700 jobs for the area. Under his guidance, the profitability for all tribal businesses improved with an overall increase of 69%.
Upon Chief Gregory Pyle’s retirement, Gary Batton became the 47thChief of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, the third largest Indian tribe in the United States, on April 28, 2014. After being sworn into office, Chief Batton set a clear direction in his inaugural address indicating a specific vision for his administration. He maintained the position by an overwhelming vote of the Choctaw People in the July 2015 general election.
Batton spends countless hours in the communities with the tribal members he serves. He believes his main purpose is to create a better future for the Choctaw people. He works to protect the culture, provide opportunities for education, employment, improved healthcare, and ultimately, do what is best for Choctaws.
Under Chief Batton’s administration, the Choctaw Nation opened large expansions to its health clinic in Poteau a regional health clinic in Durant, three new wellness centers, three Chili’s franchises, three Travel Plazas, an expansion to its resort in Durant, three new community centers, two food distribution centers, a country market and two independent living communities for Choctaw elders. Chief Batton also created several new programs like the Next Step supplemental food program, the Reintegration program and a Job for the Day program to assist tribal members. The additional facilities and programs have added more than 3,000 jobs to southeastern Oklahoma during his first four years in office.
The growth continues with numerous projects in the planning and construction phase. These include wellness centers, community centers, Choctaw markets, independent elderly communities, a new tribal headquarters and a new cultural center just to name a few.
Chief Batton is involved in the growth of the entire Choctaw Nation. He continuously looks for ways to improve and expand services, developing programs and services for the best benefit of tribal members.
In addition to his job duties, Chief Batton has represented the Choctaw Nation on numerous boards and committees including the National Budget Committee for Indian Health Service, the National Health Service Corps Advisory Council, the Tribal Technical Advisory Committee for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Thunderbird Youth Academy Foundation Board. He currently serves on the Children’s Hospital Foundation Board of Advocates, the Choctaw Nation Chahta Foundation Board, the Southeastern Oklahoma State University Foundation Board, the TMC (Texoma Medical Center) Board of Directors, the First United Bank Board of Directors, and the Oklahoma Hall of Fame Board.
Chief Batton has been recognized as one of Oklahoma’s Most Admired CEO’s, as an Oklahoma Creativity Ambassador and as Outstanding Alumni at his Alma Marta, Southeastern Oklahoma State University.
The Choctaw Nation has advanced a great deal during Batton’s term as Chief. Highlights of accomplishments since his term of office began include
- Welcoming both President Barack Obama and Secretary of the Interior Jewell on visits to the Choctaw Nation,
- Settlement of a significant water agreement protecting Southeastern Oklahoma’s water resources and our inherent tribal sovereignty between the Federal Government, the Chickasaw Nation and the Choctaw Nation,
- Settlement of a historic timber agreement resulting in a _____$ million dollar settlement
- Tribal car tags for Oklahoma tribal members
- Hunting and fishing licenses for tribal members
- Dropped the age limit for Storm Shelter Program
- Expanded ICW Program and Partnership of Summer School Education (POSSE)
- Job of the Day Program to help those in need of employment
- Grown annual income by 15%, keeping up with general inflationary costs while still expanding programs and opportunities and putting dollars back for our kids and grandkids.
- 2016 State of Nation reported a total of $658,000,000 incoming revenue…with 100% of the revenue going into Tribal Member Services, Supportive Services, Permanent Fund and Growth-Capital Projects. Ensuring a sustainable future for the Choctaw Nation through economic development that supports tribal services and employment opportunities.
- 6 new buses and 1 minivan for Senior Nutrition purchased in 2016
- Signed agreement between the Choctaw Nation and the Oklahoma State Department of Health to provide free flu vaccinations to all citizens within the 10.5 counties of the Choctaw Nation, helping to reduce the incidence rate of influenza during the flu season. As a result of the collaboration and proactive strategies of the Choctaw Nation and the Oklahoma State Department of Health, the OSDH was able to administer 23,987 doses of flu vaccines to community residents within the 11 counties between Sept 2015 to Feb 2016, compared to only 9,537 doses during the same time period in 2014-15
- Lowered age for Eyeglasses Program to no age requirement
- Added patient screens for cardiology, cancer and hepatitis-C
- Added Tribal Transit vehicles and personnel to assist tribal members to appointments
- Signed a contract with LogistiCare Solutions, LLC., which will provide rides to qualifying Sooner Care/Medicaid patients and tribal members
- Scheduled primary provider visits for 260,455 patients at the hospital
- Choctaw Nation Victim Services received the award for Professional Innovation in Victim Services at the National Crime Victims’ Service Awards Ceremony in Washington DC
- Is Next Step program a new one since he became Chief?.
- Two new wellness center – Stigler and Antlers
- Early Head Start Program created
- POSSE Program
- Job for the Day Program
- College & Career Resources (CCR) Program created
- Created Veteran Parking at Choctaw Nation sites
- Ten Commandments in both English and Choctaw languages placed in tribal facilities.
- Travel Plaza & Casino Too, Antlers
- Bethel/Battiest Community Center
- Bethel/Battiest Pre-School
- Broken Bow Food Distribution
- Chili’s Atoka
- Choctaw Country Market, Clayton
- Early Head Start, Durant
- McAlester Community Center
- McAlester Food Distribution
- McAlester Head Start
- McAlester and Smithville Wellness Centers
- Completed $20.6 million in road construction in 2016 to help communities with upcoming projects estimating over $40 million
- FASTLANE Partnership
- Antlers Wellness Center
- Casino Too & Parking Expansion, Atoka
- Atoka Head Start
- Choctaw Country Market, Boswell (upcoming)
- Choctaw Travel Plaza, Coalgate
- Cultural Center, Durant (upcoming)
- Data Center, Durant (in process)
- Durant Maintenance & Facilities Building (in process)
- Durant Wellness Center (upcoming)
- Choctaw Resort & Casino Expansion, Grant
- Headquarters Campus, Durant (in process)
- Choctaw Travel Plaza & Casino Too, Heavener
- Hugo Community Center
- Choctaw Travel Plaza & Casino Too, Hugo
- Lehigh Greenhouse (joint USDA/CNO)
- Head Start, Poteau
- Choctaw Travel Plaza & Casino Too, Expansion, Poteau
- Public Safety Facility, Durant (in process)
- Choctaw Travel Plaza & Casino Too, Stigler
- Stigler Wellness Center
- Talihina Community Center
- Talihina Day Care
- Choctaw Travel Plaza, Talihina
- Wright City Head Start
- New clinic in Durant
- Biskinik TV
- Choctaw Travel Plaza Hugo
- Wellness Center Antlers
- Expansion of Grant Casino
- Employment of over 9,000
Chief Batton continues to urge tribal members to maintain good health through preventative measures and created the Miko’s Fitness Challenge for employees. He exercises regularly, plays Stickball, having traveled to Mississippi to play in World Series of Stickball games and has participated in the Trail of Tears Bike Team rides.
Continued focus is on the revitalization of the Choctaw Nation’s culture, growth and opportunities for tribal members and financial stability of the Tribe as a whole. Preserving and passing down the culture all while providing opportunities for the future and remaining focused on our Faith, Family and Culture. Chief Batton is excited, enthusiastic and energetic in his vision for the Choctaw people. He strives to continue to look to the future on this great journey of the Choctaw people, assuring our legacy as Chahta people continues.
Chief Batton and his wife, Angie, make their home in Clayton, Oklahoma. They have two children, Stacy and David, and two grandchildren.
Assistant Chief Jack Austin, Jr.
Jack Austin, Jr., became Assistant Chief of the Choctaw Nation in 2014, after serving as Director of the Choctaw Nation Recovery Center in Talihina, OK. His journey working for the Choctaw Nation began in 1991 with a position in the Choctaw Nation Health Care System soon after being honorably discharged from the U.S. Army where he began serving in 1987.
He completed his Associates of Arts at Eastern Oklahoma State College in 1999. An opportunity arose to work as a counselor/coordinator with the Cultural Assessment of Resources and Evaluation of Services grant (CARES) from 2003-2008. After receiving a Bachelor’s of Arts in Education in 2004 from East Central University,
he received his Masters of Education in 2009, and completed graduate work to attain licensure in Counseling. He began working as the Director of the Choctaw Nation Recovery Center in 2008.
The Choctaw Nation’s values of Faith, Family and Culture were exemplified through Assistant Chief Austin’s parents, Jack Sr. and Norma (and the late Earlene Austin), all employees of the tribe. He credits them for providing a Christian home which gave him a solid foundation. He and his family have attended the same church for 30 years where he has served as a board member for more than 10 years. As Assistant Chief, he sits on the several boards that generally manage and oversee the overall direction and strategy of the applicable business entities that drive the tribe’s new business ventures.
He also currently serves on a national board for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), which provides expertise on behavioral health and links other Federal agencies, states, service providers and community-based organizations in the region. A proud alumni of Choctaw University Leadership Courses, Assistant Chief Austin encourages employees of the tribe to attain knowledge to become its future leaders. Assistant Chief Austin was published in 2005 for his vision regarding Youth Involvement in Systems of Care. In 2014, Assistant Chief Austin was recognized with the Outstanding Alumni Award from East Central University for his work in Counseling.
Assistant Chief Austin and his wife, Philisha, have been married since 1990. Philisha has also served the Choctaw people since March 2001 as a Licensed Counselor for Chi Hullo Li, a women’s residential treatment center of the Choctaw Nation. They have been blessed with oldest son Clark and his wife Tara; daughter Malacha and her husband Ethan, grandson Dawson; and youngest son, Samuel.