Meet the New Boss

Thrust into the hottest seat in the Bay State, new Tribal Council Chairman Shawn Hendricks faced the media earlier today at the tribal offices of the Mashpee Wampanoag in his first press conference–and began the tough task of becoming the new public face of not only a controversial casino bid, but also an embattled people. Since being elevated to the post earlier this week in the wake of the scandalous dismissal of Glenn Marshall, Hendricks has been meeting with elders and tribal officials to plot a path forward on the Mashpee’s plan to build a billion dollar gaming resort.

Described by those who know him as “quiet” and “press shy,” the 40-year-old Hendricks represents quite a departure from the loquacious Marshall (whose vainglorious pronouncements put his downfall in motion). Tribal spokesperson Scott Ferson says Hendricks wants to calm fears that the tribe is splintering in the aftermath of Marshall’s stunning ouster, while at the same time demonstrate that the Mashpee are pressing forward with their casino project. Tough work, for sure, but a chore that some say Hendricks is equipped for.

“If he’s prepared to rise to the occasion, I think he can handle this,” says Robert Mills, a one-time Tribal Council member who has known Hendricks all his life. “He’ll have a different style, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad style.”

Though their approaches may differ, Hendricks and Marshall have worked closely together over the last seven years serving as the top elected officials in the tribe—even sharing an office where their desks faced one another. When I spoke with Marshall this summer about his own decision back in 2000 to run for the top post of the tribal council, he explained that he and Hendricks decided together to seek the leadership positions.

“He’s been there every step of the way,” says Mills. And don’t mistake that low key persona for a lack of tenacity, say those who know him. According to Ferson, Hendricks boasts a black belt in karate and used to own and operate a martial arts studio called Tiger Fist.

—Geoffrey Gagnon