River Rock Casino on Friday named David Fendrick, a former executive at tribal casinos in Southern California, to its chief executive post.

"We're really proud to have him aboard," said Harvey Hopkins, chairman of the Dry Creek Pomo tribe, which operates the Alexander Valley casino.

Since 2005, Fendrick, 61, was chief operating officer for the gaming and resort businesses of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians in Rancho Mirage and Palm Springs.

Before that, he was a senior executive at Pala Casino Resort and Spa in Pala.

Dry Creek leaders were impressed with Fendrick's decade of experience with two gaming tribes, Hopkins said. "That's what caught our eye," he said.

River Rock has seen turnover in its executive ranks in the past year. Former CEO Scott Garawitz, who came to River Rock from Thunder Valley Casino near Sacramento last August, left in December.

River Rock's chief operating officer, John Cirrincione, was named interim general manager while the casino looked for a new CEO. Cirrincione left in January.

Since then, chief financial officer Joe Callahan has been acting CEO. He'll remain as the casino's finance chief under Fendrick.

Fendrick will help the tribe grow its casino business and develop a planned destination casino resort on its 75-acre reservation off Highway 128, Hopkins said. The project, including a 260-room hotel, restaurants, spa and gardens, was shelved in 2008 when U.S. financial markets froze.

The credit market has improved since then, but River Rock hasn't set a date for resuming the project, Hopkins said Friday.

Fendrick said River Rock's unique location overlooking Alexander Valley helped attract him to the job. "The potential here is enormous," he said.

Fendrick will be paid $300,000 a year, according to an agreement filed Friday with federal securities regulators. He will also be eligible for an annual bonus of up to 30 percent of his salary.

The casino near Geyserville posted $31.8 million in sales for the fourth quarter of 2009, compared to $31.4 million for the same period in 2008.

River Rock opened in 2002 and has about 600 employees.