Travois honors industry “superheroes” at annual conference

Travois recognized four outstanding industry professionals and a housing authority team at a Superhero Awards luncheon on April 5. The company, continuing 22 years in business and directing more than $1 billion of investment in American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian communities, held the luncheon at its 17th Annual Indian Country Affordable Housing & Economic Development Conference in Austin, Texas.

“The accomplishments of these affordable housing and economic development professionals are inspiring,” said Elizabeth Glynn, Travois chief executive officer. “Together these honorees have developed thousands of homes, have created even more jobs and built vibrant and sustainable communities with the use of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit and New Market Tax Credit programs.”

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

Housing Professional of the Year: Floyd Tortalita, Executive Director for Pueblo of Acoma Housing Authority; Acoma Pueblo, NM

Floyd Tortalita has been an advocate for affordable housing in Indian Country for over 17 years. Tortalita recently began construction on the tribe’s first LIHTC project. He has successfully navigated the complex LIHTC process, and when the project required changes, Tortalita maintained a positive attitude and showed tremendous leadership to keep pushing forward.

Tortalita accepted his award at the luncheon and shared heartfelt stories of the community members that he has had the chance to serve. After the conference, Tortalita shared this about his award:

“I am humbled with the recent recognition from Travois as 2017 Housing Professional of the Year,” Tortalita said. “I’ve been working for tribal government for the past 26 years and in Indian housing for 17 of those years. My team at Pueblo of Acoma Housing Authority and I work to provide viable and innovative housing opportunities for Pueblo of Acoma tribal members. A home is more than just shelter; it is a sacred gathering place for our families. The home is the heart that gives our families life, our bond that keeps us together.” 

Economic Development Professional of the Year – Ho-Chunk Inc. and Lance Morgan, president and CEO of Ho-Chunk Inc.; Winnebago, NE

Ho-Chunk Inc. (HCI), the award-winning economic development corporation owned by the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, was founded in 1994 by Lance Morgan. The organization has grown to over 1,000 employees with operations in 16 states and nine foreign countries. Morgan continues to break new ground in economic and community development and the organization’s success inspires fascinating work across Indian Country. Recently, HCI partnered with Chickasaw Nation Community Development Endeavor and used New Markets Tax Credits to continue investing in Ho-Chunk Village, its vibrant, walkable, new urbanist community.

Morgan was unable to attend the event but later said: “I am honored to be named a Superhero in economic development by Travois. At Ho-Chunk Inc., our agenda is clear; we are committed to developing and operating successful businesses and providing job opportunities for tribal members. We desire to improve the lives of our tribal members. With successful economic development, we achieve this by directly providing jobs, and by indirectly providing homes, educational opportunities and a wide variety of community-based initiatives.”

Pillar Professional — Danny Chatter, maintenance supervisor for Yavapai-Apache Nation Tribal Housing; Camp Verde, AZ

Danny Chatter plays a key role in building his community. He knows how to manage a project, stretch a dollar, and collaborate with others to achieve results. Chatter supervises a staff of 15, has a full workload, and is always available to lend a helping hand. Throughout the Yavapai-Apache Nation, tenants and co-workers have the utmost confidence and respect for Chatter. His knowledge, character and integrity are on display daily.

Chatter thanked the crowd at the luncheon and offered his thoughts once he returned home:

“Travois, I’m thankful for your inspiration to make a positive impact on Native American families across the country,” said Chatter. “Your hospitality and service is the best.”

Haven Professional of the Year — Jean Defoe, finance manager for Red Cliff Chippewa Housing Authority; Bayfield, WI

Since November 2013, Jean Defoe has been a housing authority employee who listens to the needs of the families she serves and puts plans into action. She’s the heart of the housing authority, providing guidance and leadership. Defoe helps keep the project running long after the groundbreakings and grand openings have been achieved. She works tirelessly to ensure the wheels stay in motion, the construction jobs get finished and the units get to families who need them.

When announced as the 2017 Haven Professional of the Year, Defoe was brought to tears. After the conference, she shared this with us:

“Receiving the Superhero Award was such an honor and very much unexpected,” Defoe said. “The surprise, support and recognition had me in tears. I am so grateful.”

Project Team of the Year — Red Lake Reservation Housing Authority; Red Lake, MN

Red Lake Reservation Housing Authority (RLRHA) broke ground on the first successful tribal Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) project in the country in 1998, and the housing authority continues to use the program today. The team recently completed construction and lease-up on its 11th tax credit project, which included the rehabilitation of 40 homes in desperate need of repair. Last fall, RLRHA was awarded tax credits for its 12th LIHTC project, a 35-unit new-construction project. RLRHA pursues diverse funding sources including tax credits, Affordable Housing Program grants, and a Capital Magnet Fund grant to fund the development and rehabilitation of affordable housing on its reservation. The team finds solutions to whatever challenges come their way to turn the tribe’s housing goals into reality.

Linda McGraw-Adams, assistant executive director of RLRHA, accepted the award at the luncheon. After the conference, she provided this statement:

“This is such an honor and a tribute to all the commitment of the Red Lake Reservation Housing staff, our housing director, Jane L. Barret, our Board of Commissioners, and our Red Lake Tribal Nation!” McGraw-Adams said. “We are so blessed to have leaders with vision and the courage to be innovative and open to trying new ideas. We are also grateful to our partners, without whom all the wonderful housing developments would not be possible: To Travois, Raymond James Tax Credit Funds, Inc., Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, First National Bank of Bemidji, Greater Minnesota Housing Fund, Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines, Rural Development, Operation Walking Shield, Edison Capital, HUD and Title VI, we are so blessed to be able to work with such awesome organizations.”

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