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Seven running for tribal chairman

Frank Grayshield

Seven candidates have filed to run for Washoe Tribal Chairman which is up for election on Oct. 18. The terms “elected” and “appointed” denotes how the individuals became members of the Washoe Tribal Council. The reward for a four-year term of office is $336,000, at $84,000 per year or $7,000 per month. My analysis is based on observable actions and behavior of the council compared to the language in the Washoe Constitution and bylaws regarding how to conduct meetings, keeping minutes and being financially accountable to the people.

Vernon Wyatt: Former elected Tribal Chairman, 1985-89. There is no documentation available to assess the quality of Chairman Wyatt’s term in office. No resumé or political platform is available for this opinion article. The main question is, will his health be up to the task?

Waldo Walker: Former elected Tribal Chairman, 2006-2010: elected to office with no experience or qualifications and left office with little more. The Washoe people were disappointed in the failure of the Walmart venture and surprised by the sudden appearance and failure of the Little Red Tobacco Shack on Highway 395. No resumé or political platform is available for this opinion article. The question to ponder is, if elected to office would he do any better than his previous term in office?

Darrel Kizer: Currently the tribal chairman, he was appointed to the office, March 2013 to October 201, replacing the elected chairman who resigned in 2013. No supporting documentation was provided of his qualifications for the office. As chairman, his term of office has been marked by controversy and lack of experience in administration and management of tribal programs. He has failed to follow Tribal Constitution & Bylaws in presiding over Regular and Special Council meetings: and, failed to inform and provide accountability for tribal council actions that could have a devastating impact for Washoe people. There is no evidence that during his term in office that he has attempted to rectify or remedy the deficiencies in how the WTC functions. Chairman Kizer’s reign has been marked by double dipping and runaway stipends for council meetings: there has been no financial accountability to the people for expenditures. No resumé or political platform has yet been made available. Should he be re-elected, it is likely to be business as usual.

Joseph McDonald: He is currently an appointed member of the council. As a council member he has condoned and participated in Tribal Council meetings and actions that fail to meet language contained in the constitution and bylaws, and failed to consult and inform the people regarding critical actions, such as the motocross venture and the proposed casino-travel plaza complex. There is no evidence or documentation that Mr. McDonald will bring the council into compliance with constitutional mandates for conducting Tribal Council business. If elected as chairman, it will likely be business as usual. He has not yet offered the voters his resumé or a political platform that shows he understands how the WTC will become accountable to the people under his leadership.

Neil Mortimer: He is currently an appointed member of the council is the vice-chairman. As a council member (and like fellow candidates Darrel Kizer and Joe McDonald) he has condoned and participated in Tribal Council meetings and actions that fail to meet language contained in the constitution and bylaws, and failed to consult and inform the people regarding critical council actions, such as the motocross center, and, the proposed Casino-Travel Plaza Complex. Mr. Mortimer has yet to provide a resumé or political platform that outlines his intention to bring accountability to the council, especially, where there has been noncompliance with the Tribal Constitution and Bylaws. If elected, will it be business usual?

Lloyd Wyatt: Appointed to the WTC and then “appointed” to the position of Vice Chairman from 2010 -2013. Mr. Wyatt has an understanding of the need to communicate and work effectively with other tribes, county, state and federal agencies to meet the needs of the tribe for economic development and ongoing program support. He understands the dynamics of working with individuals who are likely to be appointed to the council following their election to their respective community councils. No resumé or election platform has yet been provided to voters; especially informative would be Mr. Wyatt’s views on responsible and accountable Tribal government.

Benjamin G. Fillmore: Mr. Fillmore has not held an elected tribal office. However, that should not disqualify him for the office, since the only qualifications for the Office of Tribal Chairman are to be an enrolled member of the tribe and 21 years of age. People who know Mr. Fillmore know he is a man with a good heart and integrity. He has been a responsible family man and raised his children with high standards, who are a credit to his family, the community and the tribe. He is a role model for all of us who would aspire to have our children be the best they can be by giving them the best he could give. The question we have to ask ourselves is, can Mr. Fillmore convince us that he can meet the challenges facing the future, and working with an “expected majority of previously appointed” Tribal Council members who have “condoned” a disregard for the constitution and bylaws and accountability to the Washoe People. A political flyer is being circulated.

In summary, a tribal chairman faces complex political issues which impacts the tribe. We need to elect a candidate who understands how to communicate and navigate between the Indian and non-Indian political world. Since no resumés, background checks, relevant experience or minimum educational achievement is required for any elected office, “we get what we get.” So, consider electing a candidate you can “trust,” someone with “integrity” and who understands what the word “accountability” to the people means.

Frank Grayshield is a member of the Washoe Tribe. His opinion is his own and doesn’t reflect that of the Nevada Appeal.