Many react to tribal election results

Leader Reporter

Menominee Tribal member Sylvia Wilber says her election last week to the tribal legislature, and the fact she received the most votes, are an indication other tribal members want change and they are tired of being left in the dark by their present government.

Wilber received 813 votes, incumbent Eugene Caldwell was second with 776 and Tribal Chairman Apesanahkwat finished third with 682 votes.

Tribal members did not return incumbent vice-chairman Wendell Askenette , who finished fourth with 661 votes.

The campaign for the legislature had been a tough one with Wilber and other opponents of the incumbents, Apesanahkwat, Askenette and Caldwell, making claims that tribal members were being kept too much in the dark on details of the proposed Kenosha Casino. The incumbents said that wasn't the case.

Caldwell offered congratulations to Wilber for getting the most votes of all the six candidates.

"I was surprised by the amount of votes she (Wilber) received," said Caldwell. "I knew, though, that AP (Apesanahkwat) would get enough votes to remain on the legislature."

Caldwell also said he feels Apesanahkwat will be reelected tribal chairman, but when asked whether he felt the voters had delivered a message by giving Wilber the most votes, he declined to comment.

Askenette said he was disappointed by the vote total he received, but was glad the campaign was over and that Apesanahkwat had earned re-election to the legislature.

Wilber said she was overwhelmed by the number of votes she received. She said it indicates to her that the Menominee people want a better government.

"While I'm on the legislature the people are going to be more informed and more involved in the operation of our government," she said.

Among things that she says she will work on when she starts her legislative term is the Kenosha Casino project. She says people need to be more informed on it. She also feels more accountability is needed from Menominee Tribal Enterprises.

"MTE needs to be held more accountable when it comes to protection of our forest," said Wilber. "That means they must stop clear cutting and improve the efficiency of the mill."

Wilber also said she will work to stop Apesanahkwat from being re-elected as tribal chairman when the legislature's reorganizational meeting is held Feb. 9.

"He has not demonstrated that he has the tribe as the center of his thoughts," said Wilber. "He also is not communicating with the people. He has not demonstrated he is working in the best interests of the tribe."

"We need a more active and progressive leadership and I hope by my being elected that can occur," added Wilber.

Apesanahkwat did not return calls seeking comment. A clerk at the tribal offices said he was out sick Friday.

Keith Tourtillott finished first in the election for police chief with 698 votes, just five more than Judith Duquain. She did not return several messages seeking comment.

The Menominee Tribal Election Clerk's office said a request for a recount in the election for police chief was anticipated, but it had not received any formal request yet as of Friday.

Tourtillott said Friday he expected a request to be made for the recount.

By Joe Vandel
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