SUQUAMISH — When Russell Steele became CEO of Port Madison Enterprises, or PME, in 2001, PME had 274 employees and the casino was in a fabric building with about 200 slot machines and 27 table games.
“I’m now sitting at 800 employees and I have 60-plus job openings now,’’ he said while Clearwater Casino Resort was undergoing its expansion. “When we get through with the expansion, we will add another 95 jobs on top of that.”
Steele said the casino resort is about more than just gaming; it’s about connecting visitors to cultural, entertainment and recreational experiences, he said. Steele pointed out that in Las Vegas — the gambling capital of the United States — only 37 percent of revenue is generated from gambling. Sixty-three percent is generated from dining, entertainment, lodging and shopping.
Diversification “is why we added the hotel in 2006,” Steele said. “The hotel does real well and the demand is there.”
The diversification continued. And as Steele retires and is succeeded by Samuel Askew, PME is now the second-largest private-sector employer in Kitsap County and, in addition to Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort, its ventures and subsidiaries include White Horse Golf Club, Kiana Lodge, retail and property management divisions, and Port Madison Enterprises Construction Corporation.
Askew has nearly two decades of experience building and managing hospitality ventures in the Pacific Northwest, managed Clearwater Hotel from 2006-11, and was named Washington State General Manager of the Year by the Washington Lodging Association and Innkeeper of the Year by the Kitsap Peninsula Visitor and Convention Bureau in 2010.
“After an extensive search, we chose Samuel Askew for his experience and vision,’’ Port Madison Enterprises Board President Greg George said in an announcement of Askew’s hire. “We look forward to future growth and success with Samuel at the helm of our daily operations.’’
Suquamish Tribe Chairman Leonard Forsman, who is also president of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, said in the announcement, “I want to congratulate Samuel Askew on his new role as head of PME, and thank the PME Board for their diligent efforts in making this important decision. Samuel is familiar with our Tribe, and we know he can help us grow our economic future in a diversified manner.’’
For the past seven years, Askew has managed operations at Tulalip Resort and Casino. He has also served as co-chair for Northwest Tribal Tourism and held executive positions at the Squaxin Island Tribe’s Little Creek Casino Resort, Alderbrook Resort and Spa, and Riverhouse Resort.
Before beginning his career, Askew studied hotel and restaurant management at Northern Arizona University’s Hospitality School.
‘’I’m honored to have the opportunity to return to the area and Tribal community, leading teams of professionals throughout PME that I have a great respect and care for,’’ Askew said. ‘’It’s great to be home again.”