Choctaw Chief Gary Batton
Gary Batton was born December 15, 1966, in Wichita, Kansas. He graduated from Clayton High School in Clayton, Oklahoma in 1985. He began working for the Choctaw Nation at the age of twenty while attending Southeastern Oklahoma State University. Upon graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management in 1989, he accepted the position of Deputy Director of the Choctaw Nation Housing Authority. In 1997, he was selected as the Executive Director of Health. After a decade of working to expand and improve the Choctaw Nation Health Services, he was appointed to the position of Assistant Chief in May 2007.
Upon Chief Gregory Pyle’s retirement on April 28, 2014, Gary Batton became the forty-seventh Chief of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, the third largest Indian tribe in the United States. Batton set a clear direction in his inaugural address indicating a specific vision for his administration with his primary purpose being to create a better future for the Choctaw people. In the July 2015 general election, he retained his position as Chief by an overwhelming vote of the Choctaw people.
With thirty years experience of implementing reforms, identifying and fostering business development opportunities, infrastructure enhancements, and social and economic programs, Batton’s goals continue to be the improvement of the lives of tribal members, creating economic and employment opportunities and implementing tribal reform resulting in greater transparency and accountability. Batton spends countless hours in the communities with the tribal members. His mission is to create a better future for the Choctaw people. He works to protect, revitalize and pass down the culture, provide opportunities for education, employment, improved healthcare, financial stability and to ultimately do what is best for Choctaws, all while remaining focused on Faith, Family, and Culture.
Within Chief Batton’s first year of office, more than a thousand jobs were added in southeastern Oklahoma. By his third year in office, the tribe had opened a significant expansion to an existing health clinic, built a new large state-of-the-art clinic, and added new wellness centers, community centers, food distribution centers and independent living communities for Choctaw elders along with adding several new economic development and service programs.
Chief Batton has welcomed President Barack Obama and Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell to the Choctaw Nation for visits and partnered with the Chickasaw Nation to win significant lawsuits against the federal government regarding water and timber resources.
Chief Batton’s excitement, enthusiasm and energy are visible in his vision for the Choctaw people. He continuously looks for ways to develop, improve and expand services for the best benefit of tribal members and to ensure that the legacy of the Choctaw people is preserved for generations to come.
Chief Batton has represented the Choctaw Nation on numerous boards and committees and currently serves on the Children’s Hospital Foundation Board of Advocates, the Southeastern Oklahoma State University Foundation Board, the TMC (Texoma Medical Center) Board of Directors, First United Bank Board and the Oklahoma Hall of Fame Board. He has been recognized as one of Oklahoma’s Most Admired CEO’s, as Outstanding Alumni at Southeastern Oklahoma State University and as an Oklahoma Creativity Ambassador.
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 on April 29, 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. His military career began in 1987 and included four years in the Army Reserves from 1991 to 1995. He served at home and abroad, receiving various accommodations and qualifications.
While in his first position in Material Management, he felt God leading him to further his education. While taking classes at night, 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. This grant enabled Assistant Chief Austin to reach almost 600 native families with delivery of services and helped reduce the stigma of mental health issues. During his oversight of CARES, he oversaw a behavioral health system that encompassed an area the equivalent of the size of Vermont. He was also successful in seeking and implementing multiple grants such as the Learn and Serve Program at Jones Academy, a boarding school for Native American high risk students. This model is still successful and being utilized today.
Assistant Chief Austin attained a Bachelor’s of Arts in Education in 2004 from East Central University. He received his Masters of Education in 2009, and then completed graduate work to attain licensure in Counseling. He began working as the Director of the Choctaw Nation Recovery Center in 2008, where he had oversight of the male in-patient facility for substance abuse which directly and positively impacted tribal members nationwide. The Recovery Center consistently exceeded the national average success rate under his direction. A unique approach was utilized by incorporating Choctaw culture such as the game of stickball which teaches traditional problem solving and respect for others.
The Choctaw Nation’s values of Faith, Family and Culture were exemplified through Assistant Chief Austin’s parents who both are still employees of the tribe. He credits them for providing a Christian home which gave him a solid foundation to rely on as he and his family have attended the same church for 30 years and where he has served as a board member for more than 10 years. This foundation unknowingly prepared him for future service as a Christian, son, husband, father and servant leader to the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.
Assistant Chief Austin’s duties are vast, however, he enjoys working closely with tribal members and the Choctaw Tribal Council who represent individual districts and Choctaws worldwide. He also focuses on work with the Senior Executive Officers (SEO’s) of the tribe who oversee the major divisions of the tribe: Member Services, Legal and Compliance, and Commerce.
As Assistant Chief, he also sits on the following boards that generally manage and oversee the overall direction and strategy of the applicable business entities that drive the tribe’s new business ventures: Choctaw Nation Business Committee, Choctaw Defense Services, Inc., Choctaw Manufacturing Defense Contractors, Inc., Choctaw Professional Resources Enterprise, Inc., Choctaw Contracting Services, Inc., and Choctaw Staffing Solutions, Inc.
He 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.
The son of Jack Sr. and Norma Austin (and the late Earlene Austin), Jack Jr. was born in Hugo, Oklahoma, and went to school in Talihina. He credits his parents with setting the example for him regarding servant leadership, which he still holds dear today.
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, who attend Southeastern State University; daughter Malacha who attends Carl Albert State College, and husband Ethan, an employee of Choctaw Nation; grandsons, Dawson and Drake; and youngest son, Samuel.