Celebrating a Career of Commitment to Tribal Housing

About 30 years ago, Marlene Garcia wanted a chance to work closer to home in the Ak-Chin Indian Community of Arizona. She took what she thought would be a temporary job to assist Ak-Chin Housing Department’s new executive director to get the office running smoothly. Before long she’d find the job would become her career and housing would become her legacy.

In 2023, Marlene retired as executive director of the Ak-Chin Housing Department. She leaves the post after more than tripling the amount of Tribal housing available and setting the community on a path toward remarkable growth.

“We were in a little office, just enough room for two desks,” Marlene described the humble beginnings of the program in the 1990s.

AMERIND has been a proud partner to the Ak-Chin Indian Community from those early days. The program began with 12 homes, but we believed the future would be brighter with the right support.

“From the moment we opened the housing department, my director decided we were going to go with AMERIND because it was a Tribally owned company, and they were really supportive. Now, we have more than 300 homes insured with AMERIND. I have never thought about changing,” she said.

AMERIND proudly supports Tribal members working hard to make a difference. As a mother of four, grandmother of five, and loving daughter to her own mother, it’s easy to see Marlene’s commitment to her community. We worked to give her peace of mind that Ak-Chin would be protected.

“I’ve always felt that AMERIND has been there for us,” she said. “They answered any questions or concerns that I may have had, or my employees have had. I feel that they have always been truthful. I like that I can call AMERIND’s CEO, Derek Valdo, and ask him anything.”

Marlene also had an encouraging director, who insisted on sending her to attend many trainings and obtain certifications. It wasn’t until he stepped down that she realized he was preparing her to take over.

“My director knew it would be better for our tribal members for me to be the next executive director,” she explained, still grateful for his faith in her.

Today, the state of housing in the Ak-Chin Indian Community is stronger than ever thanks to Marlene’s leadership and the relationships she built. In 2024, at least 62 new homes will be built for Tribal members. There are additional plans to build another 60 next year. Though Marlene is no longer leading the charge, AMERIND looks forward to continuing to serve Ak-Chin’s growing insurance needs.

“I just feel that our tribal members are thankful when they get a home and when they’re moving in,” Marlene said. “Some of them are crying. I feel really good that we are able to get them a new home. I always felt that’s what inspired me to provide housing.”

Marlene spent decades working to get the most for Tribal members out of the funding available. A career that started out of a wish to be closer to home, became a blessing to many others wishing for a home of their own. In her retirement, Marlene says she looks forward to spending more time caring for her mother, being present at her grandchildren’s activities, and enjoying being a part of her thriving Tribal Community.

From all of us at AMERIND, we thank Marlene for her dedication and service.

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