By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Incumbent Vice Chief Alan B. Ensley and Jim Owle, former Tribal Council Chairman and current TCGE (Tribal Casino Gaming Enterprise) Chairperson, will oppose each other in the upcoming Vice Chief race in September. Vice Chief Ensley topped the candidate field in the Primary Election held Thursday, June 6 with 1,089 votes followed by Owle with 551.
Vice Chief Ensley carried each voting precinct over Owle as follows: Big Cove (117-19), Big Y (56-18), Birdtown (244-236), Cherokee County (67-19), Painttown (130-53), Wolftown (198-56), Yellowhill (136-41), and Snowbird (82-38). Owle received more votes in early voting (66-49) and Vice Chief Ensley received more absentee (10-5) votes.
Vice Chief Ensley thanked his supporters, “I would like to thank my wife and family for supporting and encouraging me. I am so grateful to the people of our Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians for their solid support in the Primary Election. I consider it an honor to serve the people of our Tribe. I really feel that being an effective leader involves being in touch with our people, and that is something that will not change. I will continue to work and interact with our people on a daily basis.”
Owle also thanked voters who came out and commented, “I appreciate all of the support that I received. I want to thank all of my family for their support. I applaud all candidates that were in the race for the Vice Chief election. It was great to hear all of the different ideas and platforms of each candidate. It shows that we all have the Tribe’s best interest at heart to continue moving forward.”
The candidates each outlined the issues they hope to address during the campaign and beyond.
Vice Chief Ensley noted, “First and foremost, my priority is to continue to be accessible to our people and continue to be an active part of our communities. I am a firm believer that you cannot know what the people want if you’re not out at community clubs, participating in community events, or visiting in homes and listening to the concerns of the people.”
He added, “I will continue to be an advocate for the betterment of our Cherokee people; whether it is meeting in DC, or events with our elders and youth. I believe either circumstance deserves my full support, respect, and attention. I look forward to discussing tribal issues and hearing the concerns of our people as I’m out visiting in the upcoming weeks.”
Owle commented, “I want the Executive Offices working with the Tribal Council on issues facing our Tribe on a local, state, and national level. I will be a voice at every level for our people.”
He spoke to housing and economic needs. “Individual land surveys need a more streamlined process, which allows for a quicker timeframe, to assist tribal members seeking homeownership and site development for homes. On economic diversification, I will seek new business opportunities on and off the Qualla Boundary and will work with the LLC Board to help diversify their portfolio and capitalize on opportunities that generate revenue other than gaming.”
Owle said he also plans to address health care needs for tribal members as well as work to fight the “drug epidemic” in EBCI communities. He also said he plans to work with the EBCI Planning Department to seek more grant funding to aid tribal programs and pursue 8(A) eligibility for the Tribe. “I will continue to support a new constitution that is voted on and accepted by our enrolled members, and I will continue to support all of our tribal programs, our employees, our tribal entities, and our elders.”