“It’s a big responsibility but I can see that it’s going to work out for me as well as those departments.” –Ben Chaney
Jason Salsman/Multimedia Producer
Former transit director looking forward to challenge
OKMULGEE, Oklahoma — Ben Chaney, who previously played a major role in establishing a transit department at the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, has been confirmed as the new Secretary of Interior Affairs in Principal Chief James Floyd’s Cabinet.
The confirmation was made official by an 8-7 vote of the National Council during the regular session Feb. 24. The seven Council representatives voting against his confirmation were Adam Jones III, Thomasene Yahola Osborne, Del Beaver, Pete Beaver, Johnnie Greene, Randall Hicks and David Hill.
Chaney may be new to the Cabinet position but certainly is no stranger to MCN, having been involved in different aspects of the Nation’s government off and on since 1999.
“I spent the last four years working for the Kialegee in Wetumka,” Chaney said. “Chief (Floyd) called me one day and asked me if I’d be interested in doing this. It’s a big responsibility but I can see that it’s going to work out for me as well as those departments.”
Those departments are the 13 his office is charged with overseeing: Arbor Care, Bureau of Indian Affairs Fire Management, Cultural Center and Archives, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Environmental Services, Geospatial Services, Historic and Cultural Preservation, Planning and Grants Department, Realty Trust Services, Storm Shelter Program, Tribal Construction, Tribal Driveways and Transit.
Chaney indicated being on the job only two weeks has necessitated lots of catching up with ongoing progress and learning as much as he can from department management and employees.
“I’ve had a chance already to visit with all the department heads and now I’ll go back to each of the individuals and see what they’re doing,” Chaney said. “There’s several departments that work under me, so being responsible for each of those departments is a challenge.”
Tribal Driveways and Transit are two departments Chaney mentioned that he can lean on his prior experience at the tribe to help meet some immediate needs.
“Back in ‘99 I kind of started the (transportation) program and federal roads,” he said. “I started the transit in 2003 and it’s grown since I left here. Now we’ve got a couple issues, I’ll discuss with them, about transit. I started it for the betterment of our people.”
In his new position, Chaney will also be overseeing Realty Trust Services. Considering ongoing issues such as the Murphy v. Royal case and the Stigler or ‘47 Act potentially having jurisdictional and tribal land ramifications, Chaney indicated a need to learn quickly on the job.
“Those kind of things I’ll have to be brought up to date on,” he said. “I’m aware of the issues, but I need to work with Realty to get the details and follow up on that. But it’s part of the challenge…learning, there’s a big learning curve there.”
Even before Chaney returned to the tribe, there are a few things he has in mind as goals to work on for the Nation. Among them are strengthening the services of Arbor Care, a service Chaney himself recently benefitted from. He is also interested in seeing some of the ideas he had previously in his position at MCN, to continue to develop.
“One of them is an air lease for the property out front (of the complex),” he said. “It’s got an air space lease. I had negotiated with the federal highway department to give us that portion for something that I know was very interesting to them. There’s some details about that now, I think were probably not completed. So I’ll be looking into that pretty close too.”
Chaney is certain that it is not only a high volume of work but also a chance to take certain advancements and build on them.
“There’s a lot to do,” he said. “I’ll look first in to some that I’ve already mentioned and see how we can improve on those.”