TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Cherokee citizen and Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation Executive Director Gary Cooper is embracing a new role with the Office of Native American Programs at the U.S. Housing and Urban Development in Washington, D.C.

Cooper, 44, of Hulbert, has worked at the Cherokee Nation for nearly 22 years, serving as executive director since 2012. His last day with Cherokee Nation was December 4.

“I’m at an age where I worked at Cherokee Nation for two decades helping our Cherokee citizens, but I’m still young enough I can go and do, and give something back, so that’s what I really wanted to do,” Cooper said. “We are among the best in housing, and I hope I can take all the housing program experience we have implemented here in Cherokee Nation, and what we’ve seen work or hurdles we’ve experienced, and share that knowledge in my new role with HUD.”

Cooper oversaw the tribe’s housing programs, which offer low-income rental housing, rental assistance, college housing, housing rehabilitation, as well as a new-home construction program that allows Cherokee families to more easily achieve their goal of home ownership. He served on the board of directors for the National American Indian Housing Council for eight years, including as a chairman.

Under Cooper, college housing assistance returned and the tribe has built more new homes, including efficient elder housing.

He also oversaw Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr.’s Housing, Jobs and Sustainable Communities Act of 2019.

“Gary Cooper in his housing leadership role has truly made a difference in the lives of thousands of Cherokee families, whether helping them become new homeowners or helping our elders with new roofs, we cannot stress the immeasurable difference his tenure has had on the Cherokee Nation,” Chief Hoskin said. “I know he will go on in his new role with HUD helping shape Indian housing policy, and give input from his own experiences on programming that will serve all of Indian Country well.”

Chief Hoskin has named Jerri Killer as interim director of the Cherokee Nation Housing Authority.