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Cherokee elections around the corner

Jesse "Fonzie" Sneed. Jesse "Fonzie" Sneed.

On Thursday, Sept. 2, Cherokee voters will select the next Tribal Council, three School Board representatives and answers to three alcohol-related referendum questions.

The Smoky Mountain News contacted all 24 Tribal Council candidates July 16 with a questionnaire covering various issues of interest to voters. As of Aug. 10, only one candidate had responded. Candidates wishing to participate in a future issue of the paper can contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 

Jesse “Fonzie” Sneed, Wolfetown candidate

Sneed, 37, is currently the supply coordinator for the Qualla Housing Authority and worked for the Cherokee Boys Club from 1999-2012. He has been a member of the Sgadugi constitution group and the Wolfetown Community Club Council since 2019 and is a past chairman of the Council. Sneed also co-founded the Wolfetown Community Club Free Labor Group. 

What should be done to better diversify the tribe’s revenue sources, and do you support Tribal Council’s spending decisions toward that goal over the last two years?

I cannot and will not support decisions like the Hoosier and Commonwealth projects that have pushed us well over a billion dollars in debt only so that whatever profits we make go into the tribal government’s pocket. If elected I will push for all profits to be split with the people 50/50 just like tribal gaming, the people are stakeholders in these endeavors too. Areas like agriculture, meat processing, energy production and clothing manufacturing are some examples we could be investing into while at the same time building and protecting our gaming interests.

Should the tribe loosen its alcohol laws as proposed in the referendum? 

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I will respect the wishes of our people in any referendum vote.

What should the tribal government do to support the local business community and economic development at home?

Invest in infrastructure, demolish unsafe buildings that have sat dormant for decades in some cases, lobby the state for better upkeep of state roads on the Boundary and take advantage of our geography by investing in more outdoor activities to bring in a wider tourism demographic.

Do you believe the tribe needs a constitution? What is your opinion on the document as currently drafted?

Absolutely! As a sovereign nation we have no protection of our people’s rights other than those provided to us through federal law. Our antiquated Charter gives us less protection than that. Our court system is set up through resolution and isn’t even its own separate branch of government. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution grants me the right to say these things with free speech. It would be absurd not to have it wouldn’t it?

Should the EBCI legalize medicinal and/or recreational marijuana? 

Most of the people I’ve spoken to in Wolftown/ Big Y are in favor of medicinal and that’s what I’m in support of at this time. I feel we’d need to have it prescribed by a licensed physician at the Cherokee hospital as well as dispensed from a licensed facility to protect the patient from any unsafe black-market product that could have chemicals laced into it.

What is working in regard to the tribe’s current approach to saving the Cherokee language? What should be done differently? 

I feel more focus needs to be placed on immersion classes for the children like our academy originally had. The biggest obstacle I’ve heard from people is the fear of ridiculing from those with a better grasp of the language. Until we address that problem, we will have a monumental struggle ahead of us. 


Tribal Council (voters pick two for their community)


• Gloria “Punkin” Griffin

• Cyndi Lambert

• Boyd Owle*

• Albert Rose*


• Bo Crowe*

• Chelsea Taylor Saunooke*

• Jesse Sneed

• Bill Taylor


• Stephanie Saunooke French

• T.W. Price Saunooke

• Tom Wahnetah*

• Dave Wolfe*

Big Cove

• Patrick Hill 

• Richard French*

• Teresa McCoy 


Tommye Saunooke *

Dike Sneed *

Bentley Tahquette 

Cherokee County/Snowbird  

• Adam Wachacha *

• Bucky Brown *

• William A. “Billy” Brown 

• Janell Rattler 

School Board (voters pick one for their community)

Big Cove

• Lavita Hill

• Kristina Hyatt


• Melanie Lambert

• Ashford Smith


• Isaac “Ike” Long*

• Berdie Toineeta 

* denotes incumbent

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