By ROBERT JUMPER
ONE FEATHER EDITOR
Filing has closed for Tribal Council, Executive Office, and School Board candidates. I have very high praise for the Election Board and staff for the transparency they have shown in providing daily releases of the candidates filing for office throughout the filing period. It has not always been so, and this open communication is a marked change in the way we have done election information in the past. The One Feather and the community should be very thankful for the way things are being handled so far. I know that the Election Board has a big job ahead and the election process is no easy task.
Keeping in mind that these individuals who have filed will still need to be vetted or verified as meeting all the criteria necessary before an official candidate list will be published by the Election Board, the information that has begun to flow, gives us, the prospective voters, a leg up on starting our research on who we want to work for us for the next two to four years.
If you were a stockholder in a major company, and the only source of income you have is from the dividends from your holdings, you would want the best and brightest in leadership positions in your company. And, if you genuinely depended on the company to provide for your livelihood, your healthcare, your children’s education needs, and even the services in your home, it wouldn’t matter if the applicants were family friends, good old friends, or even long-lost family members, you would be checking their qualifications to make sure they have the experience, education, and heart to effectively and efficiently run the company to provide maximum benefit to you and your family.
And, I know we are not a company or not just a company, but we are a municipality with a multi-hundred-million-dollar budget. Just an example, would you want to hire a part-time amateur gardener to design and maintenance a multimillion-dollar agriculture program that needs to be serving the needs of 16,000 people? Would the gardener get the job even if he were your kin?
Love is a beautiful thing. And, there are many kinds of it; love for a wife; love for kids; love for family; love for cars; even love for a type of food. I think we are sometimes are guilty of using the word “love” to justify enabling bad, immoral, unethical behavior. Or, it may simply be used as a justification for lowering our standards when making the decisions. Neither reason will benefit a voter. There may be a warm, fuzzy feeling that you helped a “friend” get elected and may gain some short-term gratification from a promise of personal reward. But, the long-term impact of a vote cast is far more critical in the grand scheme of things. Your vote will determine what kind of quality of life you may expect, your children may expect, for some time to come.
Separating our personal feelings and our logical reasoning in picking a candidate is very hard, especially in our community. The proud history of the Cherokee people includes our sense of family and community. In a small, tight-knit population, it is natural to build bonds with people, even when their behavior might lead other social groups to be cautious of or even reject them. Familiarity numbs us to some of the realities of life. In many families, including my own, it is less painful to overlook the bad in a relative’s life than it is to face or act against it. In my experience, I end up acknowledging the lousy behavior but keeping those who commit it at a distance that will prevent their behavior from impacting my life. I compartmentalize the person or the behavior to protect me and my family from the consequences of buying in to the person or behavior.
So, we look at the field of candidates. Some currently hold elected seats; some are previous seat holders, some are veteran politicians, some are just entering the ring. All are members of the Cherokee heritage and community. Some may be unknown to you. Some may be acquaintances. Some may be coworkers. Some may be friends. Some may be foes.
All are seeking a seat of tribal governance, a place that you as a Cherokee community member and the registered voter will decide who get to sit. Some will tell of their motivation for wanting that seat. Some will show us their motivation. And with some, we will not know their real motivation until the votes have been counted and they have been sworn in. We have a couple of months to ask the questions and they that time to convince us that they should have our vote. And then the primary election.
After the primary, some of us will have to reconsider our thoughts if the candidates we support fall by the wayside. It is a shock to the system to have put your well thought out vote aside because the candidate didn’t get enough votes to make it through the primary. But your vote is too valuable to quit because a candidate is out of the running. Collectively, we have positions to fill, and all hands are needed to make the most significant personnel decisions that are formed on the Boundary – the high seats on Tribal Council, Executive Office, and School Board.
Over the next couple of months till the primary and then the months preceding the general election, we will provide as much information on each candidate as possible. We will attempt to engage them in providing contact information so that you may inquire directly from them as to what they plan to do to make like better for you and the next generation. We will invite the general election candidates to open debate as we have done in previous years. We will attempt to get as much information to you without bias as possible. I want to provide this one caution to you regarding outside media outlets; beware of political bias in reporting. There are media outlets out there who cover the high (and low) points of the Cherokee community without care of the day-to-day information needs of the community. At times, they have expressed a distorted view of Cherokee life. This oversight may be due to ignorance, or it may be because of outside influence or favoritism. Read, listen, and watch that coverage with a critical eye and investigate allegations made by media before accepting them as truth. Gossip can be exciting and entertaining, but it no basis for decision making.
It is decision time on the Boundary. In just six months, we will select the leadership that will carry us into the future. Put on your Human Resources Executive hat, sharpen your pencils, and let’s elect and re-elect good leadership.