Sam Owl settles in as chief executive officer of Kituwah, LLC

by Mar 28, 2024NEWS ka-no-he-da0 comments


One Feather Reporter


CHEROKEE, N.C. – Sam Owl, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), from Wayohi (Wolftown), is the new chief executive officer of Kituwah, LLC. Owl was on the Kituwah Economic Development Board (KEDB) since its inception. Owl succeeds Mark Hubble, who served as chief executive officer since the entity was formed in 2018.

Owl is a certified public accountant (CPA) with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in accountancy from the University of Tennessee – Knoxville (UT). Serendipitously, Owl became a CPA under the guidance of Principal Chief Michell Hicks. “There’s a mound on the UT agricultural campus, and at the time, they were talking about building a bridge between the two campuses, and I believe there may have been some encroachment if they went with their plan. So, Cherokee Historical came to UT, when the Bushyheads and Garfield Long Junior worked there,” Owl shared.

“I was talking to Lynne Harlan and said, ‘I’ve got this project in accounting, and I have to interview a CPA.’ She said, ‘Well, Michell’s a CPA.’ So, I ended up interviewing him and that’s how I got my first role with the Tribe. I was an intern for a summer with budget and finance, and whenever I had breaks, I would come back and work, and that’s kind of what led me in the trajectory of becoming a CPA.”

Prior to becoming chief executive officer of Kituwah, LLC., Owl served for over eight years as the chief financial officer for the National Congress of American Indians in the Metro DC area. For the past six years, he was employed with CliftonLarsonAllen, most recently serving as the Principal of the Tribal Services practice. Working for Indian Country in economics, Owl saw a need to help his community diversify financially as other tribes were doing.

“You have to protect the community and invest in the community locally, but to fully diversify the economy, you’ve got to make these strategic investments outside of the reservation. That’s the power of Kituwah,” Owl said.

“Last year was a bit of a tumultuous year for the organization, and it got me thinking that there needed to be a change. I would’ve loved to continue to be on the KEDB, but we needed somebody that was much closer to the community, that was from the community and that the community had trust in.”

Owl says that for the future success of Kituwah, LLC and the EBCI, the organization needs to shift focus. “We’re in a transitionary period, and that’s going to be the biggest piece is looking at how to retool and shift our focus. I believe the big economic driver of the tribe is diversification. We own a brand, and now it’s just getting that brand out there, getting properties, and then getting those resources back into the company, back to Kituwah and back to the community.”

Owl also wants to ensure the community that there will be open communication from Kituwah, LLC. “We’ve been in front of Tribal Council numerous times on camera. When we go off camera, which will happen in the future and has happened in the past, it’s not because of anything nefarious. We have partners that are publicly traded companies, and when you’re dealing with information related to publicly traded companies that the company hasn’t disclosed to the public, we don’t want that to get out there for their protection and for our relationship,” Owl said.

“I don’t want there to be any misconception that we’re trying to hide anything when we have to have confidential conversations, and I’m happy to discuss why if we have to go off camera, some of the underlying reasons. What’s confidential today eventually will be public information in the future. When the publicly traded company makes the announcement, then we can go back and say, this is what we’ve been waiting to hear so that we could share openly.”

Owl, from the “old number 4 Owls,” as he described it, is looking forward to being back home and serving his community as chief executive officer of Kituwah, LLC. “I’m looking forward to seeing my nieces run track. My daughters are flying down with my wife from Virginia, and I have a lot of plans ahead. We have a lot of really good things here for the community, and I’m thankful for that.”