By William Swaim | Wyandotte Nation
River Bend Casino & Hotel General Manager Gary Johnson retired this week after 12 plus years with the property. Johnson began when it was the Wyandotte Nation Casino and guided the casino though a massive renovation and expansion to what it is now — the River Bend Casino & Hotel.
“When I look across our property and the things we have done over 12 years, everywhere I look I can see Gary’s handprint and where he has had an impact,” said Wyandotte Tribe of Oklahoma (WTOK) CEO Kelly Carpino to Johnson during a Thursday retirement celebration. WTOK is the federally-chartered corporation of the Wyandotte Nation. “I think even more rewarding is the impact you have had on people.”
During the retirement celebration, Wyandotte Nation Chief Billy Friend and River Bend Casino & Hotel employees thanked and presented Johnson with several gifts.
“I just want to say how much we appreciate Gary and what he has done for the Wyandotte Nation,” Chief Billy Friend said at the celebration. “He bought into what we were doing. Everything here we do economically, the casino side, we reinvest everything not only back into our tribal citizens, we reinvest it back into our properties and into our employees.”
Chief Friend presented Johnson with one of the highest honors the Tribe gives to those who have had a substantial impact, a handcrafted knife, carved by tribal citizen Deryl Wright.
In addition to the Tribe’s gift, employees presented several gifts to their former boss.
“It has been a heck of a ride, we are going to miss you boss,” said Casey Ellett, Marketing Manager for River Bend Casino & Hotel. “This place is not going to be the same without you.
“The thing we are proud of here is where you have taken us. You have directed us, been our leader for 12 years, we couldn’t have asked for anything more. We are going to miss you and good luck on your next step.”
Johnson spoke to all who came out to wish him well, cracking a few jokes, but also thankful for the help as well the retirement well wishes.
“I tell you what, from time to time, people have said ‘have you thought about retirement?’ My standard answer was, ‘when hell freezes over I will retire.’ Well, guess what, I look outside and I think, well it must be time to go,” Johnson joked, referring to the back-to-back snow and ice storms hitting Oklahoma the past week.
On a more serious note, Johnson said the years flew by and that if given the chance, he would do it all over again.
“I thank everyone for all the things you have done for me. It was not a one-man show. Whatever I did I couldn’t have done without you,” Johnson said. “I will miss everyone here. I will never forget this experience.”
Johnson’s official last day as GM is today (Friday), although he is staying on board for the next couple weeks to help out with other projects.
Starting Monday, River Bend Casino & Hotel will have another Gary in charge, this time Gary Stella, who takes over as the new GM for the retired Johnson.