Travois honors industry “superheroes” at 18th Annual Conference

Travois recognized five outstanding industry professionals and an American Indian tribal entity at a Superhero Awards luncheon on April 5. The company, continuing 23 years in business and directing more than $1.3 billion of investment in American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian communities, held the luncheon at its 18th Annual Indian Country Affordable Housing & Economic Development Conference in Marina del Rey, Calif.

“Since 2015 we’ve honored industry professionals doing amazing work in their communities,” said Elizabeth Glynn, Travois chief executive officer. “These honorees have filled their communities with beautiful homes, successful businesses and created thousands of jobs with the use of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit and New Market Tax Credit programs. Our annual awards ceremony celebrates the important work of Indian Country’s housing and economic development professionals and provides inspiration to all in attendance.”

Peers submitted nominations for five award categories. The awards winners are:

Housing Professional of the Year: Mike Gurnoe, maintenance director for Red Cliff Chippewa Housing Authority (RCCHA); Bayfield, Wis.

Mike Gurnoe received this award for his superhero work ethic and experience. As maintenance director, he performs routine maintenance, rehab and modernization, while successfully navigating five Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) developments. Mike’s impressive resume includes the construction of a new supportive housing facility, Oski-Ombendaam (New Hope), and the much-needed rehabilitation of 38 single-family homes, the RCCHA office and a community center building.

Travois Design Senior Architect Lauren DuCharme presented the award to Gurnoe and said: “I’ve been fortunate to work with Mike! He has a calm demeanor, soft voice, a listening ear, and a ‘we can do that’ attitude. He applies his knowledge to every project and exemplifies the characteristics needed to manage a project, stretch a dollar and battle the Wisconsin elements to deliver a quality project on time. With a great sense of humor, reasonable expectations and the ability to motivate and lead his department productively for timely results, he is a positive leader, role model and a cornerstone of housing development for the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.”

After the conference, Gurnoe said: “It was a surprise to receive this recognition. Thanks to Cheryl Cloud, executive director of Red Cliff Housing Authority, and Lauren DuCharme, Travois Design senior architect, and the rest of the Travois team. It is greatly appreciated.”


Economic Development Professional of the Year – Elijah Baca, CEO of the Santa Clara Development Corporation; Pueblo of Santa Clara, N.M.

As CEO of the Santa Clara Development Corporation, Elijah Baca currently manages the Santa Claran Casino and Santa Clara Retail Enterprises, which includes: Santa Clara Travel Centers, Riverside Package Liquor & Tobacco, the Puye Cliffs Cultural Site and a franchised UPS store. He also manages Black Mesa Golf Enterprises — which is a top five New Mexico golf course — and Kha’P’o Construction Services.

Alongside these responsibilities, Baca guided the Santa Claran Hotel, a 124-room three-star hotel, through the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) seven-year compliance period.

Travois CDE Manager Michael Bland presented the award to Baca and said: “His strategic thinking and quick financial mind have helped his pueblo to develop, and he has positioned the Santa Clara Development Corporation as a force in northern New Mexico hospitality.”


Pillar Professionals — Francisco Carr, development director, and Melanie Keams, project manager, for the Pueblo of Acoma Housing Authority (PAHA), Pueblo of Acoma, N.M.

Francisco Carr and Melanie Keams played critical roles in bringing a new 30-unit multifamily housing development to their community — PAHA’s first Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) development. The development includes a new community building, a picnic pavilion, a bike and walking path, a playground and recreation space, and a basketball court on the Acoma Indian Reservation in Pueblo of Acoma, N.M.

Travois Design Architect Taylor Higgins presented Carr and Keams with the award and said: “Both have a great understanding of construction and place value on quality: Quality of the job done, and quality of homes they provide to their community members. Both of these individuals are instrumental to their team, and work very hard coordinating with consultants, residents and contractors. This is well-deserved recognition.”

After the ceremony, Carr said: “To be recognized by Travois and housing community peers was a very humbling experience. It was a very big surprise to hear my name announced along with my co-worker and teammate, Melanie! I can honestly say we are not in this line of work to be recognized but to ensure quality homes are provided within our Native communities for many generations to come. We work for the community. We are all taught that home is where the heart is, where family is, where you are always welcomed, and that a home is always there to provide health, food and most of all love and comfort.”

“It has been a great honor to work with Travois, the numerous team members within Travois, and namely Taylor Higgins for the last three years on the Cedar Hills development,” Carr continued. “To be where I am today would not be possible without my PAHA teammates, my many mentors and most importantly of all, my wife and family who have supported me through the many long days put forth for the betterment of Native country — whether it was while I was working in tribal government (13 years) or in Indian housing (11 years). This recognition is for all of those who have gotten me where I am today because we cannot achieve anything in life alone.”

Keams followed with: “I am very thankful and amazed for receiving the recognition of Pillar Superhero by Travois. This construction project was a huge success, and I am grateful to have been a part of an awesome construction team (PAHA, Travois & Pavilion). Together we developed the beautiful Cedar Hills community! I would like to thank everyone involved with this project and for assisting the PAHA to accomplish a professional goal of providing safe and affordable housing opportunities to the Pueblo of Acoma community.”


Haven Professional of the Year — Serena Jose, occupancy specialist at the Tohono O’odham Ki:Ki Association; Sells, Ariz.

Serena Jose has worked in affordable housing since November of 2013. She has balanced the leasing of two 40-unit Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) developments back-to-back, with a third on the horizon — all while furthering her education and raising a family.

Travois Assistant Director of Asset Management Crystal Banks-Mann presented the award and said: “Serena is an excellent example of someone who listens to the needs of both tenants and coworkers and works tirelessly to ensure the wheels stay in motion, the units get rented up, and the needs of her community are served.”

After the conference, Jose said: “It has been a pleasure to work with Travois. I extend my gratitude to Crystal and her team for their hard work and communication in helping me to succeed with LIHTC. I am honored to accept the Haven of the Year award as a recognition of how much our services of giving back to the community is needed. The only reward is the fulfillment to see families in their homes and giving them this life-changing opportunity that will create a better community”.


Project Team of the Year — Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures; Onamia, Minn.

As part of its community development plan, Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures set out to provide affordable, quality housing in the areas in which they do business. To help make that plan a reality, the company used Low Income Housing Tax Credits as a way to finance the construction of affordable housing in Hinckley, Minn. – a community where much of the workforce was commuting 45 to 60 minutes due to the lack of quality, affordable housing options nearby.

The team displayed much persistence and perseverance to bring their visionary concept to fruition. Lady Luck Estates – a 28-unit townhome development – closed last fall and is currently under construction with the first units to be placed in service later this year. Once complete, the project will bring a valuable housing resource to an underserved area of the state.

Adam Rose presented the award to Joseph Nayquonabe, CEO, Dustin Goslin, economic development director; Michael Beattie, general counsel; and Zachary Atherton-Ely, associate general counsel, of Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures.

“We are proud to be recognized as the Project Team of the Year,” said Dustin Goslin, economic development director for Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures. “This project ensures working people and families have a place to call home in the Hinckley community for years to come. We look forward to continuing our work in investing and implementing affordable housing in other areas of the state.”

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