Published On: Fri, May 22nd, 2015

JLC Meet the Candidates: Principal Chief

Steven Straughan, Junluaksa Leadership Council member, asks a question during a Meet the Candidate forum for Principal Chief candidates held on Monday, May 18 in the Tribal Council Chambers.  (AMBLE SMOKER/One Feather photos)

Steven Straughan, Junluaksa Leadership Council member, asks a question during a Meet the Candidate forum for Principal Chief candidates held on Monday, May 18 in the Tribal Council Chambers. (AMBLE SMOKER/One Feather photos)

 

By AMBLE SMOKER

ONE FEATHER STAFF

 

 

The Junaluska Leadership Council (JLC) hosted the EBCI Principal Chief candidate forum in the Tribal Council Chambers on Monday, May 18.  The forum allowed eacah candidate the opportunity to introduce themselves and present their platform to the community.  Afterwards, the candidates were given four standard questions with a five-minute time limit, followed by randomly selected candidate who was asked a random question by a member of the JLC.

Introductions

5 - Patrick LambertCandidate Patrick Lambert thanked the JLC for taking the time to host the candidate forums and commended the JLC on performing a real good community function.  He has worked as a Tribal Attorney as the Executive Director for the Tribal Gaming Commission for 22 years.  “I drafted a lot of the laws that we are currently operating under today.  The first summer I came home after I came home from law school, the Tribe didn’t have a Code Book, what we call the Cherokee Code.  I spent my first summer assembling, with the TOP, all the different laws, regulations, and ordinances that had passed up until that point.”

Lambert mentioned his interpretation of the overall feelings within the community. “Over the past few years, we have been witnessing a complete loss of faith and respect in the Tribal Government.  There’s a big sense of greed and dishonesty, lack of ethics, and a real sense of entitlement that rips our government.  It’s this sense of entitlement that I will be fighting against if elected.  I’m running for Principal Chief because I know we can do better.”

Lambert also spoke on budgetary issues.  “We can begin by cutting the wasteful spending, investing in our people, and making families a priority again.  We got to be more accountable and stop all the wastefulness that permeates our system.  A strong set of internal controls, ethics, and accountability is what I’ll bring to the table.  I will work nonstop to help restore faith and belief in the Tribal Government.”

6 - David WolfeCandidate David Wolfe said he served the Yellowhill community (as a Tribal Council Member) for 10 years.  He attended Western Carolina University and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in accounting and finance.  Wolfe said “I think this Tribe deserves a Chief that will work with Tribal Council, has leadership experience and has served Tribal Council, Tribal Government, and the people.  I have that experience.  I think this Tribe deserves three separate branches of government, legislative, executive, and judicial.  Those three branches of government will help us as we take on social service issues dealing with children, families and that court system is going to be crucial how we deal with nurturing our families and protecting our children.  I don’t think anyone wants to go into a court system wants to be at a disadvantage.  They are going to have a fair shake when they go into that court system and present their evidence.  That would certainly benefit all Tribal members.”

Wolfe discussed the economic nature of the Tribe and the impact of the community. “The Tribe needs to diversify our economy.  We have a casino that has performed very well. We have tourism and that was good for a time, but I think we need to go even further.  We need to establish some businesses outside of Cherokee and bring some more businesses into Cherokee.  We need to come up with a form of business structure the people can trust and be proud of.  I’ve been in the communities, and they still have a real fear of Tribal government doing business.  They still have a hard time trusting the government.  I think, as we move forward, we get community involvement and experience from the community to come up with an avenue so that we can expand our business opportunities.”

7 - Tunney CroweCandidate Gene “Tunney” Crowe, Tribal Council Member for the Birdtown Community for the last six years, said he has over 20 years of experience working with the Tribe in different capacities with the police force, the casino, and Natural Resources.

As the Birdtown Council Member, Crowe said, “We’ve brought legislation in here, we’ve passed it.  We’ve listened to you and worked with you all a lot in those six years.”

“To me, being a Principal Chief is helping to lead you guys in right direction when we’re sitting in these seats (inside the Council House Chambers) so you know what to expect when you come on (addressing the JLC).  That’s what being a leader is, to be able to lead people and guide them.

“We’ve got to have a vision. We have to know what we’re wanting to do for the next several generations.  My platform is helping us lead and guide us through those seven generations.  We talk about economic development. We talk about diversification. We talk about new developments that will help our tribe grow and prosper.  We’ve got the casino, which we can’t rely on the casino for everything.  We’ve got to diversify our finances coming into the Tribe just in case something ever happens to gaming.”

Crowe also spoke on his plan to provide the community with better healthcare.  “We need to provide better healthcare for each enrolled member.  How do we do that?  We provide services, we have a new hospital and one of my goals is to provide the best service we can.”

8 - Tim SmithCandidate Timmy Ray Smith is the currently the Youth Sports Coordinator for the EBCI and the current President of the Native American Youth Organization (NAYO).  Smith said, “You all know the issues and everyone out there knows the issues.  Everyone out there knows exactly what the problems are.”

Smith said, “I would just like the people to ask those people, they’re businessmen, Council members, what has been going on the last 10 plus years?  When I go places, why are people so upset with the council and executive board, which is the Chief and the Vice Chief?  That’s the questions I get asked. What are you going to do about this? What are you going to do about that?  Why have the council and the Chief not been working together? Because, when I go places, that’s what people have been saying.”

He continued, “I’m running for this office because people have come to me, and I’ve coached for 25 years.  I’ve put boards together for these kids and coached every sport out there.  That’s my background, leadership with coaching.  Learning how to handle these kids from a young age all the way up through high school, trying to make them productive people in society.”

 

STANDARD QUESTIONS

  1. What are your thoughts on staggered payments of the Minor’s Fund Distribution?

Lambert: “I fully support a new distribution plan.  Let me be very clear; however, there’s no mistake on my part or anybody’s understanding. There’s a clear acknowledgement that that’s the young people’s money.  I look at this like it’s almost any other trust set up out in the country.  If you have a rich uncle, that rich uncle can decide when you may get some of those payments over the course of time because he’s looking out for your best interest.  I think, as a Tribal Government, that’s what we need to do for our minors.”

Wolfe:  “I think if we do the financial education piece and get the education to the minors and families, I don’t really think staggered terms would make a difference.  Tax-wise it would, and if there’s a tax advantage that we could capitalize and save you some tax dollars, I think we should explore all those.  If there’s a tax advantage that goes with staggered distribution, it could be a possibility, but I’d like to leave all those questions for the minors.  That’s going to be your issue that you will have to deal with.”

Crowe: “I think it’s a good idea, the reason being, we see that our kids go out and get all their money and within a month, it’s gone with nothing to show for it.  Not saying all kids do that but some of them get involved with drugs.  You’ve got people that come in and prey on those people.  Another thing I’d like to see with those staggered terms is a tax break so you don’t have to give all that money to the IRS.”

Smith: “I think that needs to be something where we really sit down as a people and discuss.  We need to get into the school systems and sit down and talk.  If your family feels like you’re ready to get that money when you’re 18 years old, then we can set something up where you will get your money.  I’d like to get some input from teachers.”

 

  1. What are your thoughts about a Tribal Constitution?

Lambert: “I’ve done a lot of thinking about this and it’s something I’ve always been interested in.  I went to law school, and the Tribal government needs a body of laws that are set in stone and can’t be changed on a whim.  You need a Principal Chief that will make this a priority.  I will make passage of the constitution a priority for my administration.”

Wolfe: “I support a Tribal Constitution.  If we just take one piece at a time, it may take several years to get it done, but I think a Tribal Constitution would benefit all Tribal members.  That way it limits the powers of government and the gives the rights back to the people.  Every community has a personality, but you have to bring all these communities in to let them have their input and participation.  Once you get the input and participation and everyone working on it, it would go a whole lot smoother.”

Crowe: “I think it’s a good idea.  It will give the people the right to come in here (Council Chambers) if they have questions or whatever issues they have.  If they have a guide to go by, I’m in support of a Tribal Constitution.”

Smith: “We need one.  We’ve had a constitution drafted.  It’s been voted on 16 times. I don’t know what the problem is. I don’t know why Tribal Council keeps voting it down.”  He added, “We need to take a look at it and maybe it’s something we do not need because it’s so old. I’m pretty sure our Tribal elders who put that thing together years and years ago were looking out for the betterment of our Tribe and we don’t need to just toss the one that we have, we need to take a look at it.”

 

  1. What do you think the role of the Principal Chief is?

Lambert: “The role of the Principal Chief is day-to-day operations.  The Principal Chief has to develop an atmosphere of opportunity, fairness, honesty, accountability and those are the things a top leader of an organization, whether it be over at the casino like I did for several years or the Chief’s office where you have a large body of employees or any other high level of executive. The goal and the purpose is to set forth a policy and atmosphere that will help employees grow and get the job done on behalf of the people.  I’m running because I know we can do better.  Right now, we’re living under a large fear of employees under a cloud of fear and can’t bring forward ideas.  I think we have a lot of smart and talented people in this Tribe, and if we’d just listen to what people suggest and give them credit for their ideas, we’d move a lot further.”

Wolfe: “The Principal Chief serves many roles.  One of the most important is he presents the budget and over day-to-day.  He represents the Tribe on all issues on the National and State level.”

Crowe: “The role of the Principal Chief is to look out for everyone.  He’s got to be the leader. He’s got to be the role model. He’s got to look out for our finances. He’s got to look out for elders and young people, and he’s got to look out for the Tribal operations of the whole Tribe.  It’s definitely a huge responsibility but I’m ready to take that role on.”

Smith: “I think the role of the Principal Chief is something I’ve done for 25 years and that’s lead.  I’ve led coaching football, basketball and I’ve seen kids come through my basketball program at Cherokee Life.  I love to lead.  It’s what I was born to do.  I think this Tribe needs a leader that is going to be here for the people, not here for the money.  I don’t care about the money.  I’m here for the people.  People say, ‘Tim you’re loud.’ You’re right. I’m the loudest person on this reservation.  I’m going to be loud for my people. I’m going to get us back to the Tribe we need to be.”

 

  1. How will you deal with criticism from others?

Lambert: “You can probably ask people I’ve worked with about that.  I’m not a person who gets hotheaded and has to keep doors closed.  Being a father of three children and the boss of a lot of personalities, I’ve learned how to deal with criticism and give out compliments and pats on the back to employees who have done a good job.”

Wolfe: “You’re not going to make everyone happy.  I know that. I’ve sat right there in that chair (pointing to the current seat within the Council Chambers) and made some of my own family mad at me.  If you’re open to everyone’s ideas and realize you’re representing everyone, every Tribal member, there’s no need to worry about the criticism.  As long as you keep in mind, you’re doing the best for the Tribe, not only for that day but into the future.”

Crowe: “Respect. My dad has always told me if you respect others, they will respect you.  I’ve had a lot of jobs where you deal with people, especially in law enforcement, where you deal with people who are unpleasant to deal with but if you treat those people the way you want to be treated, you’re going to get a long way in life.  That’s what I plan on doing is treating our people with respect and treating them the way I want to be treated.”

Smith: “I’ve been a coach for 25 years, so I’ve been criticized every time I step on football fields, basketball court…it doesn’t matter.  I’ve got parents sitting in the stands from my team, criticizing me for making a call or parents on the other side criticizing me for destroying them when my teams do.  I’ve been criticized all my life.  That just comes along with being in the public eye.  I can handle it well. If somebody wants to come and talk in a constructive manner, I’m going to be transparent.  My doors always going to be open and I will listen to everyone if they want to come in a constructive manner to help this Tribe.”

 

RANDOM QUESTIONS

  1. How do you feel about term limits?

Wolfe: “I don’t necessarily agree with term limits, I think the term time should be different for Council Members.  I think it should be a staggered 4 year terms for Council Members.  If you look at the current system, the first 6-8 months you’re learning.  After January or February of election year, you’re not going to do a whole lot to press any issues.  I think staggered four year terms would benefit the whole Tribe.”

 

  1. What’s your interpretation of Section 17? Do you support it or oppose?

Smith: “Right now, the way I have interpreted it, I’m not for it right now.  That’s the majority of opinions I get from visiting with the Tribe.  I have done a little more reading in the last couple of days and looking at some things, it is good and can be.  It’s been good for some Tribes out there.  But right now, in the state that we’re in and the things that are happening with our Tribe, and just like the question I asked earlier, do you trust Tribal Government?  Probably 90-95 percent of the enrolled members do not trust Tribal Government, and I’m in that majority, so I can’t go with Section 17 right now.  Maybe later on down the road we can, when we get a new Council and get a new Chief, maybe we can take a look at it.”

 

  1. A Legislator makes laws and debate issues with law, what kind of legislation are you prepared to bring forth to council?

Lambert: “Over the course of time, I’m sure there would be a lot of issues that come up.  I think the most important is a strong ethics law and what ethics does is sets forth a base policy of what is considered right and wrong.  It can be interpreted as whether someone should be getting something or not.  Or whether their actions are straight up or not.  I think there is also a lot of things we can to strengthen the Tribe and I will be working very strong to plan forth the constitution for protection of Tribal members rights and responsibilities.  I’m going to be putting together a 90-day plan if I am successful through the primary on answering this question directly.”

 

  1. Do you think the Tribal budget should be more transparent? If so, what steps could be taken to keep Tribal members informed?

Crowe: “Yes I do.  One of the steps I feel like we could do is take these Tribal budgets to our communities.  Once we have them, that’s a long drawn out process that Tribal Council and the Finance department go through every year.  Transparency, absolutely, I’m all for that.”

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