Race is on for tribal elections: Hicks not seeking re-election
Cherokee will have a new chief when Election Day concludes this September.
Principal Chief Michell Hicks, who is serving his third four-year term, will not seek re-election, but five candidates have filed in hopes of taking his place.
The field for the tribe’s top executive office includes two Tribal Council members, a former executive director of the Tribal Gaming Commission and two tribal employees. Likely campaign issues include curbing unnecessary spending, access to public documents, combating drug issues, defining and sticking up for tribal sovereignty and freedom of the press.
The chief’s office won’t be the only one on the ballot. The vice chief is also up for re-election, as are all 12 Tribal Council seats and three of six school board seats.
Chiefs and school board members serve four-year terms and Tribal Council members two from each community serve two-year terms. A primary election on June 4 will narrow the field down to two candidates for each seat, with the top two vote-getters moving on to the General Election.
Incumbent Vice Chief Larry Blythe will face three challengers, and a total of 41 candidates will contend for 12 Tribal Council seats. All the incumbents for those seats are running for re-election, save Birdtown Councilmember Gene “Tunney” Crowe Jr. and Yellowhill Councilmember David Wolfe, who are leaving their seats in hopes of a successful bid for principal chief.
The incumbent Wolftown school board member, John “Dick” Crowe, will run uncontested, but Yellowhill board member T.W. “Price” Saunooke will face one challenger and Painttown incumbent Charlotte Ann Saunooke will face two.
Who’s running for tribal office?
• Gene “Tunney” Crowe, Jr. Crowe represents Birdtown on Tribal Council. He holds a business degree from Montreat College and, in addition to eight years in the U.S. Navy, has served as chief of the Cherokee Indian Police Department and director of security and surveillance for Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort.
• Patrick Lambert. Lambert, a licensed attorney and U.S. Army veteran, graduated from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill School of Law. In January, he retired from 22 years as executive director of the Tribal Gaming Commission. He owns the Cherokee Grand Hotel and Car Wash Express in Cherokee.
• Sam Frell Reed. Reed is a magistrate judge in Cherokee Tribal Court. In the past, he’s worked as a deputy sheriff in Buncombe County and sergeant in the Cherokee Indian Police Department. Reed attended magistrate school at UNC Chapel Hill and completed trainings at N.C. Justice Academy and Southwestern Community College.
• Timmy Ray Smith. Smith is the tribe’s youth sports coordinator. His work history includes a few years teaching at Cherokee Middle School and a few more as an elementary school security guard. Smith studied sports management at SCC and Western Carolina University but did not earn a degree.
• David Wolfe. Wolfe is a veteran member of Tribal Council representing the Yellowhill community. He holds a business degree from WCU and 14 years of work experience with UPS.
Larry Blythe, incumbent
James “Bud” Smith
Richard “Richie” Sneed
Polly Jo Castorena
Bo Crowe, incumbent
James David Jumper
Albert Martin, Jr.
Trina Sneed Owle
Quedi “Quet” Sampson
Dennis Edward “Bill” Taylor, incumbent
Francine Parker Watty
Jeffery Dwayne McCoy
Albert Rose, incumbent
Solomon “Slick” Saunooke
Travis K. Smith
M. “Dwayne” Stamper
Terri Lee Taylor
Arizona Jane Blankenship
Alan “B” Ensley, incumbent
Anita Welch Lossiah
Richard “Twidge” Welch
Brandon Jones, incumbent
Adam Wachacha, incumbent
Terri Henry, incumbent chair
Tommye Saunooke, incumbent
Consuela “Consie” Girty
Joseph “Buddy” Johnson
Teresa McCoy, incumbent
Perry Shell, incumbent
Otis D. Swayney
Mary Welch Thompson
John “Dick” Crowe, Big Y, incumbent chair
Charlotte Ann Saunooke, Painttown, incumbent
T.W. “Price” Saunooke, Yellowhill, incumbent
Ned Stamper, Sr., Painttown
Jennifer Thompson, Yellowhill
Trista Welch, Painttown