, Muskogee, OK

June 12, 2013

Candidate wants to give back

Justin Carlton seeks District 4 Tribal Council seat

By Wendy Burton

— One in a series.

Justin Carlton said he chose to run for Cherokee Nation Tribal Council District 4 because he “wants to give back.”

Carlton, who has lived in Muskogee for about 10 years, said he was born in a Cherokee hospital, grew up in a Cherokee-built home, fed by Cherokee commodities, clothed on the voucher program and educated with Cherokee scholarships.

“So, I am a true product of the impact the Cherokee Nation has in its citizens’ lives, and I want to give back a small measure of what was given to me,” Carlton said.

Cherokee Nation voters will vote for council members in several districts on June 22. Carlton faces incumbent Don Garvin and candidate Mike Dobbins.

Carlton is a professor at Bacone College and has a bachelor’s in business administration, a master’s in business administration and is working on his doctorate.

He has served on Bacone’s Board of Trustees, and that combined with his business background, will help him serve the Cherokee Nation as a Tribal Council member well, Carlton said.

Bacone’s Board of Trustees put him in a position of leadership in which he helped develop policies, Carlton said.

“So, it’s very similar in the capacity to Tribal Council,” he said.

The biggest issue Carlton sees in the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council is stability among its members, he said.

“Right now you have a faction that’s split, and there’s too much grandstanding,” Carlton said. “They don’t vote for the constituents. They vote for a side. I want to represent the people in my district and bring unbiased, objective thought to the council.”

Carlton plans to target three initiatives he said he believes are most important — preventative health, economic development and education.

“I’m big on preventative health. I want to increase the fitness opportunities available in underserved areas to Cherokee citizens,” Carlton said. “Economic development is another thing I’m passionate about. I want to work with city officials in my district to collaborate together with the tribe to help recruit business to our area, and in that what we’ll have done is diversified the job offerings.”

Carlton said he believes everyone is a product of their environments.

“So we need to get as much money into education as possible to ensure our kids have ample opportunities,” he said.

Carlton said he’s distinct from the other candidates because of his “humble background.”

“I grew up with very little money and truly relying on the tribe to survive with my family,” he said. “And that’s where I’m different. I’m not seeking this job for money, not because I’ve been in there 14 years, but because I really want to make a difference and really want to give back what was given to me. And being young brings new ideas to the table.”

Reach Wendy Burton at (918) 684-2926 or

Election timeline

• June 15, 18, 19, 20 — In-person absentee voting at Cherokee Nation election office.

• June 22 — General election.

INFORMATION: or (918) 458-5899 or (800) 353-2895.

Meet Justin Carlton

Office sought: Tribal Council member, District 4.

Age: 32.

Hometown: Muskogee.

Family: Married with two children.

Occupation: Professor at Bacone College and small business owner.

Education: Bachelor’s in business in administration, master’s in business administration, working on doctorate.

Religious Affiliation: Baptist.

Hobbies: Fitness and reading, and spending time with family.