The Primary Election June 1 narrowed the field of 45 candidates down to 24, four from each of the six communities. Tribal members will vote for the two people in their community who they most want to see representing them around the horseshoe over the next two years.
The Smoky Mountain News reached out each candidate, with the responses of thosewho had replied as of press time listed below. Information about additional candidates will be published in the Aug. 23 issue.
Anita Welch Lossiah, 48 • Yellowhill Tribal Council
Reason to run: “I feel that it is important for our experienced, educated, concerned and motivated tribal members step up to the task of leadership in our tribe's time of need. I encourage this with my children and have always worked to show this through my actions.”
Background: Prior to winning election to her first term on Tribal Council in 2015, Lossiah worked as an optician for 11 years before earning a law degree from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. She worked in the legal field for 11 years, including positions with the Tribal Prosecutor’s Office and the Tribal Office of Attorney General. Lossiah is a parent, community member and business owner.
Top priorities if elected: Restore tribal unity, add legislative committees, strengthen tribal services, safeguard employees.
Opinion on 2015-2017 Tribal Council: “I feel very strongly that Tribal Council exercised the balancing of powers when needed most as outlined within our government structure which was set up through the wisdom and insight of those that came before us as elected officials. I additionally feel that there are great improvements that must be made to improve the legislative process.”
Charles Penick (Tsali Qunigi), 61 • Yellowhill Tribal Council
Reason to run: “Recent events have led me to believe that the expressed ‘will of the people’ has been disregarded, downplayed or diminished by those in power to suit their own purposes or by the whim of elected officials has been ignored entirely. It is for this reason and many others that I prayed about and decided to enter the race.”
Background: Penick served active duty in the U.S. Army for more than 20 years before retiring, at which point he did consulting work for the U.S. Department of Defense and several Fortune 500 companies on issues such as joint theater air and missile defense. Penick holds a bachelor’s degree in business and a master’s degree in information technology. He and his wife Lisa have four children between them from previous marriages.
Top priorities if elected: Adopt a tribal constitution, separate and define the powers of each branch of government, establish a separate and equal judicial branch, establish term limits for Tribal Council representatives.
Opinion on 2015-17 Tribal Council: “There are areas where Council in part has failed to follow the expressed will of the people as a whole, in my opinion. Additionally, I feel that Council as a whole has failed to provide the documented governmental structure (in the form of an adopted Constitution) and dignified conduct of government that the people of the tribe desire and deserve.”
Jeremy Wilson, 28 • Wolfetown/Big Y Tribal Council
Reason to run: “I believe it is time for a new generation to lead. At some point my generation will be responsible for leading this tribe, and I want to help be that starting point so I can help future generations be prepared to lead and know how to serve their people.”
Background: Wilson owns Jeremy Wilson Photography and is a graduate of Southwestern Community College and Western Carolina University, where he majored in sociology with a minor in Cherokee studies. He has completed several leadership programs, such as the Right Path Culture Adult Leadership Program, the UNC Chapel Hill Native American Leadership Institute and the WCU Coulter Regional Leadership Program.
Top priorities if elected: Limit Tribal Council members to four terms, encourage leaders to have at least a two-year degree, provide trainings to help youth with life skills such as preparing taxes and investing money, invest more into education.
Opinion on 2015-2017 Tribal Council: “I feel our tribal government has been distracted by the recent events that unfolded. It kept us stagnant, and unable to fully deliver in areas that have been needing dire attention. I believe we have reached a point where new blood is needed, and new ways of thinking should be encouraged.”
Larry Blythe, 63 • Snowbird/Cherokee County Tribal Council
Reason to run: “Our tribe has gone through tremendous upheaval recently. I want to use my leadership skills and my tribal government experience to stabilize our tribal government and return the Eastern Band of Cherokees to its rightful place of prominence in Indian Country.”
Background: Blythe has been in tribal government for most of his career, serving on Tribal Council from 1987 to 2003. He served as vice chief alongside former Principal Chief Michell Hicks from 2003 to 2015, when he lost his re-election bid to Richard Sneed, who is now principal chief.
Top priorities if elected: Pass legislation giving wrongfully terminated tribal employees the chance to seek redress in the Tribal Court system. Build an assisted living facility in Cherokee County, a new Snowbird Complex at the Cornsilk Center and a museum in Snowbird to replace the damaged Junaluska Museum.
Opinion on 2015-2017 Tribal Council: “I feel the Tribal Council over the past two years showed tremendous courage and resolve in dealing with an administration that abused employees, abused their positions of authority and abused processes of law.”
Lisa Taylor, 53 • Painttown Tribal Council
Reason to run: “These past two years started off with a council that was interested in addressing the needs of our people and building a stronger future. However, unfortunately, it got caught up in politics instead of Cherokee people. I cannot stand by as they continue to ignore our tribal elders who stand at the podium to address issues. I cannot stand by as political gamesmanship takes an even stronger hold in our tribal government.”
Background: Taylor has worked for 21 years as a paramedic with Tribal EMS, serving as secretary of the National Native American EMS Association. She is an active member of the Painttown Community Club.
Top priorities if elected: Restore unity and trust in tribal government and build a Tribal Council united enough to combat important issues such as drug use and housing. Strengthen tribal laws to prevent a repeat of the past two years. Adopt a constitution. Opinion on 2015-2017 Tribal Council: “I believe that council has created unnecessary heartache and pain for our people and made us prisoners by our own government. I want to make a difference for Painttown and our tribe. I cannot make promises to do great things for our tribe unless I have 11 other council members willing to work in unity for the good of our people.”
Terri Henry, 52 • Painttown Tribal Council
Reason to run: “After watching some on the current Council take down our government, it is important that this community have confidence in its government to work by and for our Cherokee people. I will bring my education and experience to bear for the Painttown Community and the tribe to ensure that the well-being of our people is met.”
Background: Henry’s professional background is in law, her career including nearly 25 years of work with American Indian governments across the country, She represented Painttown on Tribal Council from 2009 to 2015, chairing the body from 2013 to 2015, and was the tribe’s first Secretary of State 2016-2017. She has extensive experience drafting and advancing tribal and federal legislation and serves on the national Indian Board of Directors as a North American expert on the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
Top priorities: Rebuild our government under the current governing authority. Bring a constitution to the Cherokee people.
Opinion on 2015-2017 Tribal Council: “Having served on the Tribal Council and having the experience of being a public servant in this community, I was saddened to see it devolve.”
Ashley Sessions, 29 • Birdtown Tribal Council
Reason to run: “I am a new, fresh face with new and fresh ideas. I am young, yes, but I am a hard worker. I have watched our community members be neglected for a long time and I want to make sure that they are receiving the services that they are entitled to and that they deserve.”
Background: Sessions is currently working on a degree in criminal justice with a specialty in forensic science at Haywood Community College. She frequently attends and speaks at Tribal Council meetings, and she works at the Oconaluftee Indian Village.
Top priorities if elected: Housing, health care, road conditions and the drug epidemic are the areas most in need of immediate attention from Tribal Council.
Opinion on 2015-2017 Tribal Council: “Our tribal leaders have not done what they were elected to do, which is serve as public servants. It has become about money, power and greed. I want to bring back the core values of our tribe.”
Also on the ballot
Each candidate will face competition from three others seeking election to one of the two seats open in each community. Below is a complete list of General Election candidates, ordered based on number of votes received in June’s Primary Election:
• Richard French*
• Perry Shell**
• Lori Taylor
• Fred Penick
• Albert Rose*
• Travis Smith*
• Boyd Owle
• Ashley Sessions
• Tommye Saunooke*
• Terri Henry**
• Lisa Taylor
• Yona Wade
• Janell Rattler
• Bucky Brown
• Adam Wachacha*
• Larry Blythe***
• Bo Crowe*
• Jeremy Wilson
• Sam “Frell” Reed
• Bill Taylor*
• David Wolfe**
• Tom Wahnetah
• Charles Penick
• Anita Welch Lossiah*
**denotes former Tribal Council member
***denotes former vice chief