COMMENTARY: It takes a village and a dedicated staff

by Jul 11, 2019OPINIONS





Every evening of the tribal candidate debates, I gave thanks for the support of Jae Winchester from Cherokee Central Schools, who, along with her staff, maintained the lighting and sound in the Chief Joyce Dugan Cultural Arts Center on the Cherokee school campus. She made sure that we had tables, podiums, and any other needs for the use of the facility.

And, I thanked Chris McCoy and the crew of EBCI Communications Department, who created a special edition of Cherokee Now to promote the debate series. Most importantly, the Communications team sat with us through the entirety of the debate series and documented each one via video to be broadcast on Cherokee Cablevision Channel 28 and archived on for internet users to review at their liberty. This is essential to the process because attendance was very low, except for the Principal Chief’s debate. The Communications Department ensured that the candidates would be heard and seen by a larger audience and add to the ability of voters to make informed choices when they go to the polls. The debates did not take place during regular business hours, so it took additional effort on the part of this team to make that happen, and we are grateful.

Lisa Frady and her staff brought refreshments in the form of a cooler-full of bottled water each night of the debate. This was an essential donation because each debate session lasted approximately an hour to up to two hours, and each night but the last one had two meetings. And, each session was nonstop discussion, so being able to “wet your whistle” was a necessity.

Mike Parker, who is currently overseeing the Commerce Division and therefore the Cherokee One Feather, has always encouraged the One Feather in its quest to bring unbiased news to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) and allowed the project to proceed and offered any support that we needed during a busy two weeks plus of debate execution.

I have offered my gratitude for the officers of the Cherokee Indian Police Department in past commentaries and consider them a valued and positive force for our community. And so, we thank Chief of Police Doug Pheasant and the officers of the Cherokee Indian Police Department. Thankfully, the debates went smoothly and peacefully, but we knew if there were a need, our officers would be quick to respond.

Sheena and Maleaha Brings Plenty (Scott McKie Brings Plenty’s wife and daughter, respectively) volunteered time and labor to each night of the debate, give or take. The Brings Plenty bunch makes news and sports coverage a family affair. When Scott is out on assignment after hours, it is rare to find him without one or both of his family members accompanying him. I imagine they are just that committed to the community and family. Whatever the reason, I appreciate the sacrifice of time that they make, especially for the debate series.

The One Feather Editorial Board consists of Scott McKie Brings Plenty, Jonah Lossiah, Sally Davis, Philenia Walkingstick, Angela Lewis, Ashleigh Stephens, and me. Over the months before the debates we solicited questions from the public for the debates. This is the first tribal election cycle that we have had a functional editorial board who could help with the process of editing the questions for final delivery. The Editorial Board also reviewed and approved the debate format that was used each night. I am grateful to each member of the Board for their expertise and direction.

Scott and Jonah, reporters for the Cherokee One Feather, were the crew for each night of the debates. From timekeeping (making sure each candidate had their fair share of airtime to voice their positions) and gatekeeping (greeting the audience, receiving their questions, and selecting appropriate items for presentation to the candidates), these two gentlemen worked diligently to make sure that the public got a clear and unbiased look at who they will be casting ballots for.

And finally, the nights would have been futile and frustrating had it not been for the candidates being willing to devote time and effort to the project. Those who attended are as follows:

  • Fred Penick and Renee Cole Long, candidates for Big Cove Tribal Council;
  • Birdtown Rep. Boyd Owle and Ashley Sessions, candidates for Birdtown Tribal Council;
  • Tribal Council Chairman Adam Wachacha, Cherokee County/Snowbird Representative Bucky Brown, and Sherry Smoker; candidates for Cherokee County/Snowbird Tribal Council;
  • Painttown Rep. Tommye Saunooke, Dike Sneed, and Pam Sneed; candidates Painttown Tribal Council;
  • Wolftown Rep. Bo Crowe, Nathanial “Bunsey” Crowe, and Chelsea Saunooke; candidates for Wolftown Tribal Council;
  • Tribal Council Vice Chairman David T. Wolfe, Yellowhill Rep. Tom Wahnetah, and Stephanie Saunooke French; candidates for Yellowhill Tribal Council;
  • Vice Chief Alan B Ensley and Jim Owle, candidates for Vice Chief;
  • Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed and Teresa McCoy, candidates for Principal Chief;
  • Tara Reed Cooper and Sharon E. Bradley, candidates for Big Y representation on CCS Board of Education;
  • Regina Ledford Rosario, candidate for Painttown representation on CCS Board of Education;
  • Board member Jennifer Thompson, candidate for Yellowhill representation on CCS Board of Education.

I appreciate and respect each one of the candidates for their professionalism, courtesy, and good conduct during the debates.

As you can see, many people devoted time and effort to make sure you at least had the chance to see and hear who will be representing you. We all feel like it is vital to the future of the Tribe. The construct of the debates is such that it minimizes the opportunity for argument and allows the candidates to express their viewpoints on issues significant to the people in the communities in which they will potentially serve. There is plenty of time and other venues for those who wish to see a verbal boxing match where personal insults are the rule. We wanted to give the community a chance to hear and see past that clutter to the candidates’ positions on issues. Next to a personal meeting with each candidate, I think the debates give the most unobstructed view.

So, I encourage you to watch each one of the debates again before casting a vote. Think about what you see and hear. As one candidate mentioned, think about that person standing before heads of state for other municipalities and nations, representing the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians; representing you.

The debate series is very much like a job interview. It must be taken in-context of all the information that is available about a candidate. Each one of the candidates has a different resume. Each one has a history. Meditate on all of that before you go to the polls.

In a couple of months, we will be choosing leadership for the Tribe to carry us into the future. You also have hopes for a good future for you and your children. Make your vote count for the future you hope to see.