Gavin Clarkson, center, is the new Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Economic Development at the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He is seen here at an energy roundtable at the White House on June 29, 2017. On the left is Mark Fox, the chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation. Photo: U.S. Indian Affairs

Secretary Zinke announces senior position at Bureau of Indian Affairs

It took nearly a month to announce but the Trump administration has filled a senior position at the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Indianz.Com first reported the appointment of Gavin Clarkson as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Economic Development on June 12. He is overseeing gaming, energy, economic development and self-governance at the BIA.

“Dr. Gavin Clarkson’s expertise in the areas of law, finance and economic development are a valuable asset to the Department of the Interior and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs as we work together with tribes to increase economic opportunity and promote self-determination throughout Indian Country,” Secretary Ryan Zinke, the leader of the Department of the Interior, said in a press release on Thursday.

Clarkson is a citizen of the Choctaw Nation and a graduate of Harvard Business School and Harvard Law School. Though he has never served in the federal government, he has extensive experience in economic development and finance issues in Indian Country. Those who know and work with him describe him as extremely enthusiastic.

"He’s a lawyer, an MBA, a college professor and he is like the energizer bunny," Jim Cason, the Associate Deputy Secretary at Interior, told tribal leaders who attended the National Congress of American Indians mid-year conference last month.

Clarkson's position, while an important one, is not the top political job at the BIA. That would be the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, which has yet to be filled by President Donald Trump.

Both Zinke and Cason have said they expect an Assistant Secretary nominee to be announced at some point. Last month, Zinke indicated that the president already has someone lined up.

"I think the tribes are going to be thrilled," Zinke told the House Committee on Natural Resources on June 22.

The Assistant Secretary post requires confirmation by the Senate. Aides in the chamber have been told by the White House to expect an announcement this summer.

Clarkson's post, on the other hand, did not require Senate confirmation.

"I am excited to help tribal nations and tribal entrepreneurs create the conditions under which they can build, expand and sustain their economies," Clarkson said in the BIA's press release.

An announcement on a director for the Indian Health Service is also expected this summer -- possibly before the BIA position.

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