Alumnae in Action in The Trident fall 2016, by Noel van Aartrijk, Virginia Tech
When I first spoke with Lacey Horn, Southern Methodist, she was coming off of a big win. As Treasurer of the Cherokee Nation, she had just secured a $170 million loan for a large-scale Indian Country hospital construction. This deal was unprecedented, and certainly warranted celebrating. “When that new hospital gets built, I’ll know why I stressed and struggled for a year to borrow the money to build it,” she said excitedly. “That will transform lives. Thousands upon thousands of lives will be saved.”
Coincidentally, all of this good news happened to fall on Lacey’s 35th birthday. As our conversation got started, she paused briefly to pick up a very important phone call. It was Chief of the Cherokee Nation, Chief Bill John Baker, calling to sing her “Happy Birthday. The two have a special relationship. In 2011, Chief Baker appointed Lacey to his cabinet, entrusting her with managing the finances of the largest federally-recognized tribe in the United States.
In short, I asked, what does Lacey do as Treasurer of the Cherokee Nation?
“Ah-day-la dee-jee-gah-tee-yee,” she said. “I watch over the money.”
Of course, while it’s not quite that simple, Lacey always aims to discuss financial careers in a way that’s understandable and engaging. “It’s really about showing people that I’m not an accountant who’s sitting behind a stack of papers using a pencil and calculator all day long. I’m working on creative strategies and ways to pay for the Cherokee Nation’s future.”
Quickly excelling in her role, Lacey has been credited by many for creating “a culture of trust that ensures a self-sustaining tribal economy for the Cherokee Nation.” For her work in enhancing transparency, the Nation received Excellence in Financial Reporting awards from the Government Finance Officers Association.
“As a tribal economy, when we’re accountable and we have integrity in what we do — businesses, nonprofits, and other governments want to partner with us,” Lacey explained, “thereby increasing our ability to be self-sustaining.”
Beyond accolades, Lacey has continued to find passion in her job through the “series of small wins” that have created a real wave of change for the Cherokee people. “For example, there’s a lady in my town who had Polio as a child and has a hard time walking. She needed a ramp for her house. For years, she struggled without this ramp. And in 2012, we realized these are the types of things we need to spend money on. And now she’s got a ramp. That’s a no-brainer. I advocate for those ways to spend money, and that’s really driven by my leader, Chief Baker. When Cherokee citizens have needs that need to be met, I find the money,” she said.
The daughter of a nurse practitioner who has worked for the tribe for decades, Lacey has seen herself working in public service since she was a young girl. Now as an adult, she is frequently praised for empowering the next wave of Native American financial leaders. In early 2016, she was appointed to the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Tribal Advisory Committee, a seven-person committee that advises the Secretary of Treasury on taxation of American Indians, the training of Internal Revenue Service field agents, and training and technical assistance to Native American financial officers. “I’m encouraging Native youth to think about jobs in accounting and finance so that they can come back and work for their people,” Lacey said.
Just as her desire to work in public service stemmed from an early age, so too did her love for Tri Delta. She remembers being 10 years old and visiting her brother, a student at the University of Oklahoma, to attend a football game. She couldn’t help but notice the “triangles all over campus.”
“Finally I asked my brother, ‘What are the triangles?’ And he said, ‘Oh, they’re the Tri Deltas. They’re the smartest and most beautiful girls on campus.’ And I just knew I had to be one.”
Eight years later, when Lacey was entering sorority recruitment at Southern Methodist University: “The Tri Deltas I met were the girls I wanted to be like — smart, beautiful, talented, personable. They were who I wanted to be,” Lacey remembers.
They were equally fond of her. Lacey’s pledge sister, Jessica Bracken Boyd remembers meeting Lacey during Bid Day celebrations in January of 2001. “I thought to myself, ‘She looks like fun.’ And, by sophomore year we were neighbors, living in the same building off-campus and that is when our friendship truly began to blossom. I was struck by her — Lacey is loving, smart, strong, accountable and, most importantly, loyal,” Jessica said.
As a collegiate member, Lacey took an active role in recruitment and nominating committee, and was also heavily involved in SMU’s Panhellenic Delegation. “Panhellenic was really where I began to learn about diplomacy,” Lacey explained. “We had to work for the good of all Panhellenic chapters on campus. I use those skills every single day now. The work I do here to better the Cherokee Nation makes it better for all tribes. ‘The rising tide raises all ships.’”
In addition to the transferable skills Lacey developed through her Tri Delta involvement, she also found motivation and inspiration in Tri Delta’s slating philosophy many years later. When Chief Baker tapped her shoulder for the Treasurer position, Lacey had initial hesitations. “I was nervous. It was a big responsibility.” Fortunately, her Tri Delta sister had an uplifting reminder for her. “She told me ‘You’re going to be fine! Remember, the office seeks the member.’”
As her professional career in unselfish leadership continues, Lacey embraces her lifelong membership in Tri Delta. “It’s such a big part of me. It is, without a doubt, one of the best decisions I made.”
And what about the common phrase that sororities are all about “paying for friends?” The ever financially-minded Lacey retorts: “Well, there’s been an amazing return on my investment.”