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Leadership Spotlight: Mal McGhee

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Mal McGhee was born to humble beginnings in Poarch, Alabama, but you could say he was destined to lead. You could also say that while growing up in the heart of the Poarch Creek community, he never imagined the success he or the Tribe would achieve throughout the years. McGhee began his employment in 1992 and served in various leadership roles, then in 2016, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians founded Ecke Holding Company, of which McGhee was its first employee and is a valuable leader in Federal contracting today.

How he landed in this position was the result of decades of experience that didn’t always come easy. McGhee’s father was a full-blooded Creek Indian and the descendant on of Lynn McGhee, the original leader of the Creek Indians that is known today as the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. In 1836, Congress granted Lynn McGhee the land where the Poarch Creek Indian Reservation now stands off I-65 in Atmore, Alabama. When Mal was growing up, his father was a sharecropper and timber worker before opening a community store and mechanic shop across the street from the current Powwow Grounds. He was also a leader in the Head of Perdido community, an early Creek settlement at the headwaters of the Perdido River. He worked with Chief Calvin McGhee and others to lay the groundwork that eventually led to the Creek Indians being federally recognized.

As the youngest of four siblings, Mal was only four when his father passed away. A year later he started first grade at the Consolidated Indian School, a segregated school set up by Escambia County, Alabama to provide Indian children with an education through the sixth grade. When he finished third grade, Indians were allowed to attend Atmore public schools, so he and about a dozen other Indian children transferred to the public elementary school in Atmore. Because the curriculum at the public schools differed so much from that at the Indian School, McGhee faced many struggles, both educationally and emotionally, but he persevered and completed his education in Atmore.

When Mal was a young teenager, a retired Airforce fighter pilot married a local teacher, moved into the community, and built a runway. He was awestruck and found a passion for aviation that would never leave him. After graduating from Escambia County High School, Mal pursued that passion and became a licensed airplane mechanic. In more technical jargon, he studied to work on both the airframe and powerplant of aircraft, earning an A&P license. After working at Montgomery Aviation for three years, he returned closer to home and became an aircraft mechanic for the Navy at Whiting Field, in Milton, Florida, where he worked for the next twelve years.

During this time, McGhee was elected as a Tribal Council Member and served in several capacities to include Treasurer, Secretary, and held an at-large seat prior to and after the Poarch Band of Creek Indians became federally recognized in 1984. Part of that effort was the founding of Creek Indian Enterprises. As the Tribal Council Treasurer, he held a position on the Creek Indian Enterprises Board of Directors, where he helped lay the foundation for early Tribal economic development and was part of their first acquisition, a manufacturing company that eventually became Muskogee Metalworks. As an aircraft mechanic, it was a natural transition to take the reins of this newly acquired manufacturing company, where he transformed it into a state-of-the art aerospace manufacturing facility, Muskogee Technology.

As the leader of this company, McGhee networked with Federal organizations and other tribal companies and learned about programs within the Small Business Administration (SBA) that could benefit disadvantaged citizens. He spearheaded the effort to become SBA 8(a) certified and, at the time, could easily prove that the Tribe was indeed economically disadvantaged. This helped open the door to federal contracts and programs that had previously been difficult, if not impossible, to win.

Gaining expertise and knowledge over these next two decades, he knew that it was time to develop the Tribe’s Federal services organization. With the help of Chad Klinck, CFO, Creek Indian Enterprises Development Authority, Ecke Holding Company was born. Since its inception, the Tribe has acquired or founded more than a dozen businesses with 8(a) designations and has grown its relationship with federal agencies. Today, all of these 8(a) designated companies operate under the Ecke Holding Company, DBA PCI Federal Services, umbrella, which offers a diverse portfolio of solutions providing everything from aviation and manufacturing services to facilities management, construction, and IT and employs a variety of professionals from aircraft mechanics, electrical and mechanical engineers, and IT professionals.

In a way, McGhee’s life has come full circle. As a young man he was actively involved in the struggle to become federally recognized. As a professional, he honed his skills and sought out opportunities to improve the way of life for his Tribe through economic development. And now, he continues to set an example for the next generation of Tribal leadership, blazing a trail of success that is hard to ignore. Before the Tribe ever built its first casino and resort, McGhee was a business and Tribal leader working for his people. Today, PCI Federal Services has truly become a collection of growing companies that will sustain generations of Tribal Citizens and thousands of employees around the world for years to come.

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