Tribal Government & News

George, Giffen and Harvey elected to Tribal Council

09.10.2016 Dean Rhodes Tribal Council, Elections

Tribal voters overwhelmingly elected Spirit Mountain Community Fund Director Kathleen George to Tribal Council during the Saturday, Sept. 10 election, as well as returned two incumbents to office by narrow margins over the rest of the nine-candidate field.

George received 624 votes, the most since Tribal Council member Chris Mercier received 607 votes in 2007. George’s margin of victory over second-place finisher Jack Giffen Jr., who received 565 votes, was 59 votes. Giffen, who has been serving as Tribal Council vice chair, was elected to Tribal Council for the fifth time.

Tribal Council member Denise Harvey received 557 votes to gain her second consecutive three-year term on Tribal Council, edging out fourth-place finisher Lisa Leno by three votes. It marked the second straight year with a close finish as Tribal Council member Jon A. George retained his seat in 2015 by a two-vote margin.

Fifth-place finisher Penny DeLoe was not far behind, receiving 548 votes. Other candidates included Michael Langley, 434 votes; Jackie Many Hides, 312 votes; Monty Herron, 136 votes; and Jason Darcy-Chantel, 57 votes.

Incumbent Tribal Council member Ed Pearsall did not seek re-election.

Turnout improved with 32.5 percent of eligible members voting: 1,309 ballots were cast out of a possible 4,030 voters. In 2015, turnout dipped below 30 percent.

Election Board Chair Deanna Johnston said this year marked the largest number of voters coming in to vote in person with 161, a 51-person increase over 2015. Election Day registrations also totaled 27.

George was all smiles on Sunday, Sept. 11, as she received congratulations from numerous Tribal members before the General Council meeting held in the Community Center.

She said her vote total indicates that the membership is looking for change.

“I think they want somebody to address some of these long-standing problems we’ve had. I think they want folks who are talking about moving forward in a positive way, trying to move beyond conflict and have a new positive vision for our Tribe,” she said.

George said that she experienced a combination of happiness, gratitude and relief on Saturday evening after she saw the election results.

“It was a long, challenging campaign season,” George said. “It was my first run, so I had so much to learn about campaigning. I was so happy that I had Tribal members who have never before been involved in politics come to me and say, ‘How can I help?’ ”

During her first three years, George said she wants to increase Tribal Council transparency and accountability, revitalize the Tribe’s economic development efforts and revisit the Tribe’s Strategic Plan, which has expired.

Mercier said that George probably benefitted from her high-profile position as director of Spirit Mountain Community Fund. He recalled that Angie Blackwell received 604 votes in 2004 when she ran for Tribal Council and also was in charge of the Tribe’s philanthropic entity.

“I think coming out of a high-profile position like that definitely doesn’t hurt,” Mercier said. “I just think she worked hard. She let people know about her campaign months beforehand. She was getting out there and putting it out there. I think it showed in the votes. … It’s an encouraging time, I think.”

George becomes the 46th Tribal member to serve on Tribal Council since 1983’s Restoration.

Giffen said this will be his final three-year term on Tribal Council. He said he had mixed feelings about the results since he ran on a slate with Leno and DeLoe.

“I thought the membership stepped up and supported me and all of the rest of the candidates,” Giffen said before the General Council meeting. “I think the membership is starting to get a little bit more involved and that’s good.”

Giffen said during his final term that he would like to see an unbundled constitutional amendment election regarding the parent on the roll enrollment requirement, as well as continue working on regaining more Tribal hunting and fishing rights.

“This is going to be my last rodeo,” Giffen added. “It’s a tough process for all candidates.”

Harvey said that her first term on Tribal Council was eventful – disenrollment proceedings, the Cowlitz casino threat and a controversial constitutional amendment election -- and she knew that she had probably gained and lost some votes along the way.

“I think people are looking for a new direction,” Harvey said about the closeness of Tribal Council races over the last two years. “We have a lot of things coming up with the Cowlitz situation and other things, so I think people are looking for who is going to be best at the table with the most amount of experience to get us through these troubled times.”

Harvey said she would like to work on peace and unity among the Tribe during her next three years, as well as concentrate on the Tribe’s economic situation.

“I think we need to be very strategic in our handling of that,” she said. “We have to think things through really well.”

Giffen, Harvey and George were scheduled to be sworn into office on Wednesday, Sept. 14.