Tribal Government & News

Tribe holds hybrid Candidates Forum

07.27.2023 Dean Rhodes Tribal Council, Elections

By Dean Rhodes

Publications coordinator

For the fourth consecutive year, the Tribe held the annual Tribal Council Candidates Forum using the Zoom teleconferencing program with candidates attending in the Governance Center and most other Tribal members participating remotely.

Starting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 26, challengers Veronica Montano, Chris Bailey and Matthew Haller joined Tribal Council incumbents Lisa Leno, Michael Langley and Chris Mercier in Tribal Council Chambers for a 92-minute forum that attracted approximately 36 online viewers and 20 in-person attendees.

Acting General Manager Chris Leno handled moderator duties and watched the clock to ensure candidates did not go over their allotted time. Tribal Council Chief of Staff Stacia Hernandez monitored online attendees for any questions.

After three-minute opening statements, each candidate had two minutes to answer submitted questions from the membership. In a slight departure from previous forums, only three candidates answered a question before moving on to the next question that three other candidates answered.

Questions covered a wide range of topics, including increasing rental assistance for Tribal members in college, protecting the minor’s trust accounts, how to make the Tribe more welcoming to visitors and employees, defining self-sufficiency and discussing views on transparency in Tribal government.

Following the questions, each candidate was allotted 90 seconds to address any question that was asked but they did not have an opportunity to answer, and then two minutes to deliver a closing statement.

Mercier, 48, is seeking his seventh term on Tribal Council and will tie former Chairman Reyn Leno as the second longest-serving Tribal Council member at the conclusion of his term in September 2026 if he is elected again. He said this will be his last term on Tribal Council if he is elected.

Langley, 56, is seeking his third consecutive three-year term on Tribal Council. He has been serving as Tribal Council secretary since September 2021.

Leno, 54, also is seeking a third consecutive term on Tribal Council. She holds the record for the most votes received in a Tribal Council election with 1,047 in 2020.

Haller, 34, is the owner of the Wildwood Hotel in Willamina. He is the son of Rex Haller and Martha Hood and grandson of Robert Haller and LeVeta Sell. He is a first-time candidate and vowed to run again if he is not elected this year.

Montano, 37, is employed by the Tribe’s Finance Department as the Budget Coordinator and was the manager of the Tribe’s Member Services Department. She is descended from the Holmes family. Her mother is Tammy Chavez, her grandmother is Betty Dick and great-grandmother is Arlene Holmes. She is also a first-time candidate.

Bailey, 46, works for the Tribe’s Cultural Resources Department as a cultural protection specialist. He has been a Tribal employee for more than 20 years and this is his first run for a Tribal Council seat. His parents are Jerry and Teresa Bailey.

This year’s field of six candidates marks the 10th consecutive year of single-digit candidates running for Tribal Council. The last time 10 or more candidates threw their proverbial hats in the ring was in 2013.

The Candidates Forum was recorded and will be posted at under the Government tab and then Videos.

Tribal voters also can read candidate statements in the July Tilixam Wawa that was mailed in early July and listen to Smoke Signals’ podcast interviews with each candidate at The interviews will be posted on Friday, July 28.

More than 2,800 ballots were mailed on Wednesday, July 26, and Tribal Election Day is Saturday, Sept. 9.

In addition to electing three Tribal Council members, voters are being asked five advisory vote questions – all regarding enrollment issues -- on the Sept. 9 ballot. They are:

  • Should the Tribe change the current enrollment requirements?
  • Do you support the Tribe moving toward lineal descendancy for enrollment?
  • Do you support the Tribe in moving toward 4/4 blood quantum applied to a specific roll or date for enrollment?
  • Do you support repealing and replacing the 1999 constitutional amendment requirements, including parent on the roll at the time of application, parent on the roll at time of birth and the Indian blood tied to the Restoration Roll ancestor requirement?
  • What constitutional amendment election would be your top choice for Tribal Council to pursue next: Lineal descendancy, 4/4 blood quantum or repealing and replacing the 1999 amendment?