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High-powered CEO joins Mashantucket Pequots.

By Gale Courey Toensing -- Today staff

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. - The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation has hired a former Clinton administration official and Harvard Law School graduate with experience in business, legal, government and charitable organizations to be the first CEO, overseeing strategic business planning for all tribal enterprises including Foxwoods Resort Casino.

Patricia L. Irvin, 52, will have responsibility for all gaming, resort, entertainment and related operations of the MPTN, both on and off the reservation. Her principal role will be working with tribal leaders to develop and execute diversification strategies, tribal leaders said Dec. 14 when announcing Irvin's appointment.

''Patricia Irvin brings an impressive breadth of business knowledge and experience to this new position,'' MPTN Chairman Michael Thomas said in a prepared statement. ''Her proven ability to work with people in varied and complex organizations, efficiently manage key projects and solve problems will be indispensable as the tribe's economic entities grow in the coming years. She will play a crucial role ensuring that the tribe's economic development is on a sound footing for the many generations to follow ours.''

Irvin served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Clinton administration and as chief operations officer for the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. She was a member of President Clinton's transition team when he was elected in 1992.

Irvin graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1976, and earned her J.D. degree from Harvard Law School. She practiced law in New York and Washington. Before joining the Clinton administration, she spent 14 years at the prominent Wall Street law firm Milbank Tweed, the last six as a partner in the corporate department. She was also a partner in the Washington law office of Shaw Pittman. In addition, Irvin served as the executive vice president and general counsel for a startup television network that produced upscale entertainment aimed at an urban audience.

During her tenure at the Department of Defense, Irvin's accomplishments included oversight of $125 million in annual humanitarian operations carried out by the military. Additionally, in the private sector, she worked extensively on mergers and acquisitions, venture capital and other corporate transactions, as well as on streamlining and structuring business operations. As COO for the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation - whose $6 billion endowment supports educational and cultural activities - Irvin oversaw information technology, human resources, communications, facilities and other key institutional components.

Irvin comes on board the Mashantucket management team at a crucial time, when the nation is dealing with a $700 million expansion, a legal battle to assert tribal sovereignty in labor relations following an employee vote to unionize under federal labor law instead of tribal law, and growing competition from both the nearby Mohegan Sun and up to three proposed casinos in nearby Massachusetts.

Irvin spoke confidently about facing the challenges ahead.

''The culture and history of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe reflect the strength, ingenuity and fortitude of its people,'' she said. ''I feel privileged to join with the tribe's exceptionally talented and visionary leadership to grow and diversify its enterprises. Together with other members of the community, we can accomplish great things that will provide for the well-being and economic security of future generations. I will dedicate myself to this dual mission.''

Irvin serves on several civic and charitable boards, including as director of Legal Services for New York City and vice chairman of the National Board of the Princeton Prize in Race Relations. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Law Institute. She is a former board member of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Legal Aid Society and former trustee of Princeton University.

Because her responsibilities include Foxwoods and the MGM Grand at Foxwoods, which is currently under construction, she is in the process of obtaining a state license.