Christabell Mull, Director of Support Operations, was recently promoted to General Manager of Apache Gold Casino, while GM Gary Murrey moves up to Chief Operating Officer in a role which focuses more on the development of the new casino property near Oracle and strategic partnerships for the future.
Both promotions are intended to make the day-to-day operations run smoothly while ensuring that plans for Casino’s future expansion are being well tended.
We sat down and talked to them about the new roles they have taken on.
GMT: You’ve been General Manager since 2011, so tell us about the move up to COO.
One of the challenges, prior to my coming on board three years ago, was a lack of solid strategic planning, including a business plan that could provide a blue print to follow in the absence of a manager. We’ve got that now, so we don’t have to stop and regroup and ask a lot of questions about what needs to be done if a manager is not available or when a new person is hired.
A program we have begun and will develop more thoroughly in 2015 is a mentorship program. We now reach out to employees to find out what people’s desires are so we can develop talent from within the organization. For instance, we may have a front line employee who wants to be director of HR. Even though this isn’t the usual job path we will help them. It can be through education, training, job shadowing – whatever it is – we help them with these goals.
Several years ago, during the recession, we had to let a lot of people go, and we lost valuable experience and time in doing so. Put this in another way, if you think of it in terms of horsepower – well, during any recession, you make yourself as lean as possible and shut down the horsepower – keeping just enough to get down the road.
But then when you get to a hill, you don’t have enough horsepower to get up the hill.
Our goal is to slowly rebuild that engine so we have enough power to start climbing again. We’ve been doing this by improving the property, rebuilding the golf course, adding food and beverage services, offering better customer service and rewards programs…and launching our mentorship program.
We’ve had great ideas in the past, but many of them didn’t get anywhere because we lacked the bandwidth to implement and sustain them. Developing our own talent and increasing that bandwidth to sustain us into the future is something we’ve been working on for the last three years and will continue to do.
Our decision to promote Christabelle to General Manager came about as part of the natural growth of the casino property and future planning. When I was hired on, it was clear the tribe was looking for opportunities to develop the property. As I said, our focus for the last several years has been in developing Apache Gold: bringing on new programs, new food and beverage outlets, painting the facility, developing the golf course. We call these things “Polishing the Gold.”
Now that these things are in place, my time has been increasingly focused on Apache Sky, our new casino project, which is located on tribal land near Mammoth, and on the bigger strategic picture involving community relations and the greater economic role of the casino in this region.
Both jobs, that of General Manager and Chief Operating Officer, are 60-plus hours a week, so I was stretched beyond capacity and not giving the full focus that either job required.
It made sense to bring on a General Manager to ensure we had someone who was available on site eighty to ninety percent of the time and provide the team with cohesive leadership. Especially with our new push to roll out our Guest Services Initiative in January and February, it was important to have someone owning that 100% and helping everyone to live and breathe it every day. When we went searching for talent to fill that role, Christabelle was one of several viable candidates, but was a natural choice in many ways.
One of the goals of the tribe is to develop tribal employment and look for ways not to have to go outside to fill positions. Christabelle has been my right hand person since I got here and has assisted in all the operations of the casino. This fact, plus her knowledge of people and past history, has been invaluable to me and will be an asset in her role as General Manager.
Having been raised on San Carlos, Apache Gold’s new GM is no stranger to the tribe or the casino where she began working for the Casino just out of high school. Christabelle Mull is a full blooded tribal member and attended Rice School and later graduated from Globe High School in 1994. That was the same year the tribe opened it’s casino.
“They were looking for student workers and since I was only 18 at the time, I wasn’t allowed to work on the floor and got a position in HR,” says Mull. She continued to intern in HR through college and came back to take a full time position in the department and eventually worked her way up to HR director. Over those thirteen years in the HR department she got to know every employee and says she could call each of them by name. She knew what they did and what the position required. Then in 2008, Mull was moved up to Director of Support Operations, overseeing six departments, a position she has held until her recent promotion.
“I’ve been raised with the Apache Gold family and have been a part of the organization since it began. We just celebrated our 20th Anniversary last fall and there are quite a few of us who have been with the casino that long,” she says proudly.
She has seen quite a few changes and has experienced the upheaval caused as top management kept changing every couple of years. For awhile each new manager would bring their own brand of focus and priorities to the Casino and while it may have felt like shifting sands to some, she smiles and finds the positive in that bit of history, saying that having those different management styles gave her a better insight into why each of those areas were critical to the success of the property.
When she first sat down with Murrey in 2011, she says he asked her what her ambitions were, and she told him she wanted to be General Manager … ‘but only if you can prove to me that General Managers can last more than two years.”
She praises Murrey for bringing on a lot of positive changes to Apache Gold and building a cohesive team. She knew she would need more training in other departments to be ready to take on the role of GM and that, she says, has been provided over the last three years through the mentoring program, Murrey’s support and close networking with other staff, and management.
“As a General Manager,” she says, “you are only as good as the people you put in charge. I will continue to focus on our hiring process so we get good people and support our mentorship program so that each employee can have the same kinds of opportunities I’ve enjoyed. I am proud to be a San Carlos Apache tribal member who is entrusted with over seeing a multi-million dollar operation for my tribe.”
Writer, photographer. Passionate foodie, lover of good books and storytelling. Lives in Globe. Plays in the historic district. Travels when possible.