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Somers steps in as Government Services Director

001KaliByLine_CJohnson_newElizabeth Somers is about as prepared for her new position with the Oneida Nation as anybody will ever be. The Oneida Nation citizen’s professional experiences coupled with her no-nonsense approach to management make her a natural fit for her new role as Governmental Services Director for the tribe.

She went to college right out of high school where she received her undergraduate degree in Nursing from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, “I attribute a large part of my funding for education and training to the Oneida Tribe,” Somers said. “Upon graduating from college I decided I wanted to join the United States Navy.”

Somers would eventually spend six years on active duty in the Navy and after her term was up she decided to pursue her master’s degree from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.

“I ended up staying in Nashville and working in the health care management field for 14 years,” Somers said. “Nashville, in addition to being known for country music and Bible publication, is also a well-known hub of seed money and venture capital for health care entities. So Nashville is at the forefront for private sector health care and my career has involved everything from strategic management to product line decision making.”

While working in the health care field Somers decided to continue her Navy career as a reserve officer serving primarily with United States Marine Corps units. “I started out at a hospital base and as I progressed through my career I gained experience with field-base triage and had increases in supervision and administration roles,” Somers said. “After I transferred to the reserves I became the Commanding Officer of a 500-bed field medical hospital which, when it was fully operational, had over 1,500 military personnel staffing it.”

Upon returning to Northeast Wisconsin in 1999 Somers worked for health care and mental health providers for the Veterans Administration and Lilly USA. Now, as Somers settles into her new role for the Oneida Nation, she is aware of differences between prior management positions she’s held and the one she currently holds. “What’s new to me is the General Tribal Council (GTC) component so I’m learning and becoming familiar with how that influences and impacts our day-to-day operations,” Somers said. “I’m still in my infancy here but my approach to management is different from how the Governmental Services Division (GSD) historically approached managing.”

One thing she is adamant about instilling is consistent stream lined communication with the various managers within her division. “I work very tightly with my area managers,” Somers said. “I am putting things in place that will allow them to manage effectively, efficiently and progressively. I am working very diligently to get those fundamentals in place because it helps them manage their direct reports in a more predictable, consistent and standardized way.”

As the Governmental Services Division Director, Somers is charged with overseeing the operations of multiple areas within the tribal structure including Social Services, Transit, Food Distribution, Parks and Recreation, Education and Training, Head Start and Daycare as well as Cultural Heritage. She is confident that once her leadership plan is fully implemented the results will be easy to see. “I’ve been spending quite a bit of time working intimately with my area managers,” Somers said. “So now the next phase will involve me working with their direct reports and having them hear firsthand some of my expectations. With such a large area to cover and only a finite number of hours in a day it’s very difficult to get everywhere but that is my intent and we’re starting to roll that out now.”

Somers is quick to point out the important role GSD plays for the Oneida Nation. “They’re working very hard and they serve the members of our community that are in the most need especially those on our Social Services side,” Somers said. “In fact I’ve seen that the work load in some of our departments exceeds the national average of those specialties. So my role in that regard is to ensure that in those cases we are doing our jobs to the best interests of those affected because if you are overwhelmed you may not be able to do that.

“I really want everybody to understand that I really appreciate the opportunity to give back to the Oneida Nation,” Somers said. “My foundational education was funded by the tribe right when I left high school so I’ve certainly benefited from what the tribe has done for me. And in turn my more than 20 years of professional military and civilian career experience has provided me with plenty of management opportunities in company growth, customer service, funding, expense reduction and in the regulatory environment. I am acutely aware of how we do business and it’s my expectation that we do it in a consistent, standardized way so that everybody is accountable to ensure that we take care of the organization.

“My goal is to protect the tribe’s assets and sovereignty,” Somers said. “I can do that by ensuring that the Standard Operating Procedures and directives already in place are being followed consistently and accurately. I, and the vast majority of people in GSD, are working very hard to see that they are working smart and to see that they are supported. It is my hope that everybody will be able to reap the benefits of a consistent, standardized way of doing our jobs and providing for the community.”

Somers is the granddaughter of the late Cora and Jonas House and the daughter of the late Betty House of Oneida. She has eight siblings.