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District 3 (At-Large) candidate profiles

Observer Staff

10/28/2005 12:00:00 AM

Meet the Candidates for District 1 and 3 on Nov. 6 from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Tribal Gymnasium

District 3 (At-Large) voters have the following five candidates to choose from for one seat on Tribal Council (incumbents designated with an atresic): Frank Cloutier, Bonnie Ekdahl, Greg Falsetta, Damian Fisher and Michele Stanley*.

(Editor's note: The following candidates responded to the Tribal Observer's request for a personal profile on their Tribal Council aspirations. The prospective Tribal Council representatives were asked why they are running; what they hope to accomplish and how they feel they could make a difference while serving on Tribal Council. Of the seven District 1 candidates that did not respond, Timothy Davis said he would decline the opportunity to participate. Phone messages were left and/or personal contact was made with Lorna Call, Darryl Jackson, Delmar Jackson Sr., Maynard Kahgegab Jr., Milton "Beaver" Pelcher and Diana Quigno-Grundahl. With all respects to time considerations, personal health or other commitments, the Tribal Observer strived to make sure all were included in this special feature.)

Frank J. Cloutier, 39

I have no previous experience working directly on Tribal Council. I have, however, worked closely with Tribal Council on several occasions. I have worked directly with many of the documents that direct our Tribal government.

I am running for Tribal Council for a couple of reasons. I believe that every Tribal member who has the desire to run should.

I have gained a tremendous amount of experience being involved with the Tribe over the past several years and would like to serve the community that has been so supportive of my efforts.

I believe we should give back what we receive in whatever way we can.

If elected as your representative, I hope to bring equality to each area of the Tribal community.

Each district differs in the member's benefits; in time I feel we can bring equality to those benefits.

Membership is something that has to be resolved once and for all.

We may never be able to change our past, but we have an opportunity to not repeat those previous mistakes.

Our future depends on the Tribal government diversifying its portfolio.

There are other ways of generating revenue while maintaining our competitive edge in the gaming industry. I would like to explore those options.

Exceeding our patrons expectations should be our ultimate goal.

I have proven that I can cross over those invisible boundaries that divide our community.

I have shown by example that we are Tribal community members, able to create alliances throughout the community as a whole.

I don't shy away from challenges and believe in the spirit of our Tribe.

I will represent with patience, humility and dedication. I will never forget to encourage our fellow members to vote. Exercise your right to take a stand.

Thank you for your consideration.

Bonnie Lynn Ekdahl,

Aanii. I am running for the District 3 Tribal Council position. I have spent my entire working career-23 years-working for Michigan Tribes.

I am currently the Director of the Ziibiwing Center, located in Mt. Pleasant. It is my 10th year of service in that capacity.

In 1995, I graduated from Central Michigan University with a bachelors of science degree, political science major and a Native American studies minor. I am married and have four children.

I am a very goal oriented person and would love to have an opportunity to work for the Tribal members in another role.

I am interested in running for office because I feel it's time for me to fall back on my years of experience and offer what I can to ensure sustainability for the Tribe.

I have had the opportunity to work with many talented Tribal members and Tribal employees and I am very familiar with the current operating systems both administrative and technical.

It has been an honor and blessing when Tribal leadership trusted that I would follow through with whatever assignments and responsibilities they gave to me.

One area I feel is a priority is sustaining and maintaining the Tribe's successful programs and services offered to the community.

The phenomenal changes that have occurred in this community are truly a historical marker for the Tribe's history.

However, it is important to acknowledge the internal and external challenges we will face as a Tribe.

I feel I am at a point in my life to move to that next level and will continue to work hard for the Tribe.

I will creatively seek solutions for the challenges we are facing now and will face in the future.

Greg Falsetta, 56

I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself as a candidate to represent all District 3 Tribal members.

I have been employed by the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Michigan for the past 18 years. After working in the family business for many years, I decided to continue my education. Utilizing the G.I. Bill, I earned a bachelors degree in hospitality management.

In 1987, I came to work for the Tribe as a blackjack dealer. The first night I dealt cards, the gaming area was in a room off the old bingo hall (Tribal Operations Gymnasium). There were ten blackjack tables and people were lined up waiting to get a seat.

Soon after the Tribe's pallet factory, a larger area became available and we moved down the road allowing more tables and a concession area to be built.

Several local businesses were interested in providing food and beverage service to the Tribe, but stated they would use their own employees. I then proposed to the Tribal Council that we do the same, but employ Tribal members.

That very night, the Food & Beverage Department was born and I was given the opportunity to supervise that area with five employees serving pop and sandwiches. I became director of Food & Beverage in 1993 and continued to grow with the department, managing 12 food and beverage outlets and more than 500 employees.

In June of 1999 through August of 2003, I had an opportunity to serve the Tribe in the regulatory area as a Tribal Gaming Commissioner. During that time, the Tribal Minimum Internal Control Standards were developed; I obtained certification from the National Indian Gaming Commission and served two years as chairperson of the Tribal Gaming Commission.

For the last two years, I have served as the Human Resource Director. The Department is currently developing a new position titled Native American Job Placement Specialist. This position will assist Tribal members and other Native Americans during the hiring process and expose those interested Tribal members to the Tribe's Career Development and Leadership programs. I currently serve on several committees and worked in the past with fellow Tribal members to ensure the democratic process remained intact.

It is because of the experience and knowledge I have gained while serving the Tribe these past years that I believe I'm now ready to serve on Tribal Council.

I believe that unity is a must and education is a key to the future of our Tribe. We must do our best to reinforce the importance of traditional teaching in our everyday lives. This will help us become unified and give us the determination to contend with the many issue facing our Tribe today.

Our status of respect in Indian Country and across the U.S. is no accident. It is because of the hard work of "United Tribal Members" focusing on a goal and working together to reach it.

Education is also a key to the future of the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Michigan. We must instill the importance of education in our youth. Making them part of the team that will lead us into the future, assuring they are holding top management positions in our "family" business.

My hope is to be part of the team leading our Tribe and its youth in that direction. A direction of education, economic growth and diversification for our businesses and a direction of unity, tradition and making informed decisions based on what is best for all Tribal members and the future of the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Michigan.

Damian Fisher, 45

Please use your one vote to put a professional advocate on Tribal Council to represent At-Large interests. I believe that your At-Large representative should be more than just one voice on Tribal Council.

Your vote to put an attorney on Tribal Council will ensure that when the Tribe deals with outsiders the right questions get asked and answered.

It will also send the message that our Tribe will not be taken advantage of. Most importantly, I will be a full-time advocate for At-Large issues.

I stand for increasing opportunities for At-Large members in four core areas: healthcare, housing, jobs and education.

This focus will not only give Tribal members a chance to succeed in life, but it will also give the Tribe a chance to succeed. I believe that when Tribal members are supported with programs that secure basic needs-healthcare, housing, and other programs that provide opportunities in jobs and education-they will perform to their full potential and successfully live out their dreams.

When we are a Tribe of strong, secure, confident and successful members, our Tribe will be a nation looking ahead to its best years in a bright future.

I am a licensed attorney living with my wife Bonnie, my daughter Madison, 12, and my sons Riley, 10, and Parker, 8, in Okemos-just east of Lansing. I have lived At-Large most of my life, but from 1995 to 2002, I lived on the reservation in Little Elk Estates.

I was the general manager of Sagamok Shell when it was first opened. I worked at Ziibiwing when, under the provisions of NAGPRA, ancestral remains from the Fletcher archeological site we repatriated from Michigan State University.

I was in the Tribal Education Department's Leadership program when I earned my law degree. I worked in our casino as a guest services manager just before getting my license to practice law in Michigan four years ago.

Currently I'm a contract attorney for the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians. I advise and litigate for their Enrollment Commission. Before that, I was one of their full-time Tribal attorneys working in Manistee.

As an attorney, I clerked for the chief circuit court judge for Ingham County and served as assistant prosecuting attorney for Gratiot County. My first job was as staff attorney for Legal Aid of Lansing, where I represented indigent clients in domestic, landlord/tenant, and public benefit cases. Part of that job was to supervise a legal aid telephone hotline, which operated in a five county service area.

Recently, I was appointed by the Michigan State Bar to serve a second three-year term on the board of trustees for Michigan Indian Legal Services. I currently serve on the Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Board of Regents where I had been the vice-chairperson on the very first board. I have served twice on our election caucus committee and participated in the very early formation of the Anishnabe Ogitchedaw Veteran & Warriors Society.

I have a highly trained listening ear and much practice advocating for underrepresented interests in our legal system.

With my inside governmental experience as prosecutor and clerk, I am an effective advocate and I will bring this professionalism to my service as a Tribal Council member.

Please vote for me to be your At-Large representative.

Michele Stanley, 51

2005 Incumbent

I am running for a second term on Tribal Council because I believe that the At-Large members need a strong voice to represent them and their interests.

This is a demanding position and I feel I have demonstrated a committed effort to be informed and involved, both with members' needs and those of our businesses.

I have been active on numerous committees and have a genuine interest in associations such as National Indian Gaming Association, Midwest Alliance of Sovereign Tribes, and as a delegate for National Congress of American Indians.

It is through these efforts that we maintain a voice in government as to best protect Tribal sovereignty and programs that contribute to our success as a nation.

It takes quite some time for a council member to become acquainted with the daily workings of our operation and the various programs. That is why I think consistency in our government is essential.

If re-elected, I want to continue the work and research we have started towards diversification and expansion.

I would like to see our resort develop into a true destination spot where our patrons want to spend days enjoying the amenities that would set us apart from the competition, enabling us to provide our members with better benefits and programs.

Thank you.