Chamber honors Cross for her contributions to the community

Virginia Cross says the secret to her success can be found in her relationships with others.

Virginia Cross says the secret to her success can be found in her relationships with others.

“I think it’s the people you work with,” said Cross, chair of the Muckleshoot Tribal Council. The people you work with have different ideas, and they’ve (helped us) get to where we are going (today).”

For her work, Cross received the Bill Kyle Memorial Award at the Auburn Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual recognition of service dinner Thursday night at the Muckleshoot Casino.

The award recognizes Cross, an elder of the tribe, for her dedication and service as an elected official who has impacted the community and supported business. Partners with the Chamber chose Cross from a finalist field that included state Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn (47th Legislative District), a past winner; Rep. Linda Kochmar, R-Federal Way (30th District); and Pacific Mayor Leanne Guier.

Under Cross’ watch, the council established a plan to guide the tribe’s economic rebirth through tribal gaming and other programs. The tribe has grown to become one of the largest employers in southeast King County, making a significant economic impact on various business ventures. The tribe also provides nearly $3 million annually to local governments, schools, churches and nonprofit organizations. The tribe’s role as co-manager of the natural resources in this area benefits the entire region, Cross has said.

Cross, who has served on the tribal council for more than three decades, also served as director of Indian Education for the Auburn School District for 22 years, actively shaping many programs for Native American students in the state. The Virginia Cross Native American Education Center, operated by Auburn schools in partnership with the Muckleshoot Tribe – was named in her honor.

Cross was elated with the award.

“It was great,” she said. “It was really an honor and I’m glad to have people here to see this. … I was surprised, yes.”

In addition to Fain, other past Bill Kyle Memorial Award winners include: Rep. Pat Sullivan, D-Covington (47th District); Auburn City Councilmember Bill Peloza,; former Auburn Deputy Mayor Sue Singer; and former Auburn City Councilmember Lynn Norman.

Waste Management, Comcast, Boeing and MultiCare sponsored the event.