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Indian Nation of New York, and thereafter with Tribes in Washington, Arizona and California. In late 2000 I got offered a position on a six-month

contract to set up and open Black Oak Casino in Tuolumne County.This will have been the first resort project I have seen all the way from the beginning and hopefully to the end. We are now starting work on a 150 Room hotel and conference centre; there is a golf course in the plans, and within the next 5 years will be a full destination resort.

It’s been a great journey as I’ve learned a lot about the different cultures of Canada and North America, and certainly the Native American culture. I feel as though I am a good fit into this culture. We have moved on average every two to three years, but we’re coming up now to having lived 11 years here in California and we plan to retire here.

CI: How much of the casino’s community ethics

are tribe-driven and how much comes from you? RP: When I first started here one of the tribe’s goals (the tribe is The Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians) was that they wanted the casino business to be part of the community. So part of my job, as well as establishing the casino and getting it up and running, was to make sure that the casino was very much a part of the local community. This was also a job where for the first time my wife and I had moved without our children, as they had left home and gone to college. Being here for a length of time allowed me to really get involved with the community, and I found that they were very family orientated and giving. Every week there’s a benefit, an event or a fundraiser for a family or an organisation in need. People are very caring. The casino peaked at 800 employees – or team members as we call them – so the tribe went suddenly from having only a handful of employees to being the largest employer in the county. This gave me the opportunity to get involved in a lot of local organisations, firstly the Chamber of Commerce of which I have been on the board for eight years. I’m also on the board of two local theatre companies. And I’ve been on boards and committees for different organisations like Meals on Wheels, Sierra Senior Services, the local Hospital Foundation Board, and Habitat for Humanity. My wife Anne, and I have been involved with many organizations. That’s been a very rewarding and fulfilling part of my job

A word from the

organisers… George Segarini, President and CEO of

Tuolumne County Chamber of Commerce, explained to Casino International the criteria Ron had to meet for his award. George explains: “The criteria for the award is that the nominee shall have been involved in voluntary

and it has helped me build a respect for the casino business as well for the success of the tribe.

CI: What do you think has been your most

rewarding achievement as Manager of the Black Oak Casino? RP: As co-chair of the major fundraiser for the

County’s Meals-on-Wheels program for the last five years I think this has probably been the highlight as far as I am concerned of giving back to the community. Meals-on-Wheels were in danger of closing at one time so we put together a major fundraiser starting in 2006 which has now become one of the largest fund raisers in the county, involving over 50 volunteers and local businesses. Held at the local Railtown State Historic Park, we have raised a total of over $300,000 dollars in the past 5 years – that’s a real feel-good achievement. As a team of volunteers and local businesses everyone has helped to raise that money. I would consider this my greatest community achievement.

CI: What does the Citizen of the Year award

mean to you? RP: The award can be seen as recognition and also

as a ‘thank you’ from the community. We’ve been welcomed here. In other places we have lived, we were never there for long enough to really get involved, but now we feel we are a good fit for this community. This feels like a pat on the back , acknowledging the efforts I have made and that it is appreciated.

services that have improved the quality of life for the citizenry of Tuolumne County, and have demonstrated outstanding leadership and community service beyond the call of duty. Their activities should have had significant impact on the community, including leadership of major volunteer projects that help the community. Black Oak Casino has been accepted into the community with open arms. From the very beginning the Me Wuk Indians made it clear

that they wanted to be a contributor to their community. They have lived up to that commitment. The many non-profit organizations that have benefited from the casino is beyond my personal comprehension. Their employees are active in many organizations and programs throughout the community and is led by their boss Ron Patel. Ron also has the support and participation of his wife Anne who are seen together on many fundraising committees.”

MARCH 2012 53

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