Round-Up President Dave O’Neill texted Erika Patton at 4:30 a.m. Thursday morning and told her that her day was about to blow up.
True to form, congratulatory messages flooded her cell phone and her Facebook page around 5 a.m. once the Round-Up Association and Happy Canyon went public with the announcement that they were hiring Patton as their next general manager.
She will take the reins of the historic rodeo and night show on April 1, replacing Casey Beard, who announced his retirement in November.
Patton, the business manager for the InterMountain Education Service District and formerly a vice president at Banner Bank, will be in charge of the day-to-day operations of the organization.
“I feel honored to have been selected to be part of this iconic organization and can’t wait to get started,” she said in a press release. “I look forward to being part of its future.”
O’Neill was effusive in praising Patton in a statement of his own.
“Erika has the talent, energy and background to successfully lead our day-to-day operations and execute strategic planning necessary to navigate the rapid growth of the Pendleton Round-Up Association,” he said. “It is especially rewarding to bring on somebody from our area that knows our story and is personally invested in our community. That truly is a template for success.”
In a Thursday interview, O’Neill said Happy Canyon and Round-Up convened an executive committee of officers from each board to sift through the approximately 20 applications the association received.
Although previous experience managing a rodeo was preferred, O’Neill said it wasn’t a requirement, adding that the structure of the 17-member Round-Up Board and the 12-member Happy Canyon Board means that many rodeo and night show operations are already handled by board members.
In Patton, the members of the executive committee saw the experience in business management and finance they wanted in their next general manager.
O’Neill said it was also important to them that Patton already lives in the community.
“There’s a whole cultural component to it,” he said.
Originally from Enterprise, Patton said she moved to Pendleton in 2001 after spending her youth as a competitor in junior and college rodeo and as a member of the Chief Joseph Days court. Her husband and two children are also active in the sport.
O’Neill also pointed to her civic participation in various community groups, which includes a stint as the president of the Pendleton Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.
Patton will assume leadership over the Round-Up and Happy Canyon during a time of expansion.
“It’s an exciting time to come to the Round-Up,” she said.
The press release mentions that Patton’s skills will be an asset to the construction of the new retail store and office space across the street from the Round-Up Grounds, the renovation of the announcer’s booth, and an electrical upgrade in the Happy Canyon Arena.
She’ll also be involved in the establishment of the Blue Mountain Regional Training Center, a planned $12.5 million indoor arena and classroom space that’s a partnership between the Round-Up Association, Blue Mountain Community College, and other local agencies.
Beard was selected as the organization’s first general manager in 2014, more than a century after the rodeo was founded. In the past four years he has overseen record ticket sales and national awards.
“We are sad to see such a good man like Casey Beard leave our organization,” Happy Canyon President Tanner Hawkins said in the press release, “but we are also excited to see what Erika has in store for the future.”
Patton said she’s in a good position as the second general manager in Round-Up history, which allows her to build in the areas where Beard has already paved the way.