Saturday, April 2
Today, Cyndi and I traveled to Snowbird to celebrate Alfred Welch’s birthday. It was so good to see some wonderful people and visit with friends we haven’t seen in a while.
Monday, April 4
This morning I gave the welcome speech to the National Farmers & Ranchers Association at the casino to open their conference held there. We had several officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture present. I announced at the Conference that I am intending to create a new “Department of Agriculture” within the Tribe this next budget year. I hope to develop our farming into a commercially viable market and be able to provide food to our schools, senior centers, casinos, and hospital. The idea of creating a Tribal Farm has been discussed for a long time, but I plan to make it a reality. I also plan to work with the Court and get our prisoners out working on something productive whether that is farming or roadside cleanup, and this new department can spearhead those efforts.
Also on the 4th I attended the work kick-off for the new Big Cove Day Care Center. I am very excited for this to be happening for Big Cove. It’s been a long time coming. And, just as I have explained to many, I intend to get projects moving. Several projects have been approved and fully funded but have been sitting idle with no action for several years. I intend to get them accomplished and Big Cove was just the beginning of several local community projects coming.
Tuesday, April 5
Today was Budget Council, and I presented my report on the Forensic Audit of the credit card charges from the previous administration. I made a promise to the people to get to the bottom of any waste, fraud and abuse of Tribal resources – the people’s money – and I will continue to do so. I have attended preliminary reviews with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and other federal authorities. We know there have been fraudulent expenditures, but it will depend upon the U.S. Attorney to take the case and bring charges. The confirmed amount of money reaches into the thousands of dollars on personal expenditures and other questionable charges of the Tribe’s money, and I will work to ensure that the people receive justice on this issue.
Also today, the veto I issued for shifting the account for Governmental Affairs out from the Executive to the Tribal Council was upheld. I want to thank those Council Members who stood with me and are interested in keeping the balance of power intact.
I also had a meeting with Swain County Commissioner Kevin King. There is currently an effort by several local county governments to start charging our Tribe for Health and Sanitation inspection charges. Swain County proposed to bill us for over $80,000 to continue performing this requirement under state law. Jackson County has also made indications to our staff that they will be doing the same. I have responded that should the counties do this, I will push for legislation in Tribal Council to begin charging all non-member Swain and Jackson County residents working for the Tribe and casino a “Non-Resident Employment Tax.” Our civil jurisdiction extends to them and while they are employed by our Tribe, we will charge them a non-resident employment tax to help cover the added cost from Swain County’s and Jackson County’s new inspection charges.
Wednesday, April 6
I attended a lunch meeting with a very successful developer on bringing to Cherokee a Retail Outlet Mall and an Entertainment Complex. Present at our lunch was the General Manager for the Casino and the Commerce Division. The meeting went very well and he was very impressed with our location and the business we are already generating. We planned to meet again later in the month to begin further discussions. I am excited to bring new developments to our town and new businesses that not only our guests can enjoy but also our local residents and families can enjoy as well.
Thursday, April 7
Today was regular Tribal Council, but there were also other important events planned the same day:
The Cherokee Civil Action Team organized and sponsored an Anti-Drug walk. I was very proud to be a sponsor of this worthy cause. There is a tremendous amount of support for this group. I appreciate their work on the drug epidemic. We have a hard road to figure out this problem, but I am encouraged by the start of groups like this to get up and do something. I am working on these issues as well and plan to begin some efforts at educating our youth about the extreme dangers of drug addiction. I think we are going to almost to have a “Scared Straight” type of educational program that is taught mandatorily throughout our elementary and high schools. I remember as a kid the old U.S. government films on the dangers of heroin addiction, and I believe those educational efforts worked to keep thousands of kids away from opiates. We have got to get to them before the drug dealers do! Otherwise, it is too late and a life of misery and heartache can ensue.
I also had a meeting with Wayne Goodwin, N.C. Commissioner of Insurance, and was able to introduce him to Tribal Council. He is running for re-election and has been a good friend to our Tribe working closely with our Fire Department and others.
Later the same evening, Cyndi and I had the pleasure of joining the Cherokee Cancer Support Group for dinner in Birdtown at “Betty’s Place.” We truly enjoyed everyone’s company and listening to their personal stories. As you all know, I lost my dad to lung cancer almost nine years ago, and I miss him every day. I also have my mom, my sister, and my nephew as survivors, and this group has helped each one. I want to express my gratitude for the great work this group does to help anyone affected by this disease. Thank you.
Friday, April 8 – Saturday, April 9
These two days were our First Annual Spring Garden Fair. It was very interesting and encouraging to see the outcome of this event. I really enjoyed visiting with all the vendors and am committed to making next year even better. I have had so many positive comments following the event but the work and appreciation really goes to Jody Lipscomb. She poured her passion into the event and it turned out to be a very good event. Thank you Jody.
Monday, April 11
Today consisted of several meetings and staff meetings. Later in the day, I met to discuss the remodeling and naming of a permanent home for the Cherokee Speakers. There is a small building behind Kituwah Academy that can be remodeled to fit this need. I am also working to find ways to shore up our language academy and also putting plans together to approach the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction to make sure our language is continued as a core language course for graduation from our local area high schools.
Tuesday, April 12
Today started the beginning of the new “Community Harvest” garden kits. We went to Tsali Manor and later this same day we gave out more kits at the Yellowhill Community Building. Thank you to everyone involved.