A primary election will be held June 7. Two will advance to the general election, set for Sept. 6.
The winner will oversee 1,000 tribal employees and a $196 million operating budget, according to the tribally owned newspaper, The Cherokee One Feather, and will make an annual salary of $129,000.
“No wonder so many want to be chief,” said 93-year-old Sally Bradley of the Big Cove community. “They are coming out of the woodworks.”
Bradley believes elected officials in Cherokee get paid too much.
“Too high,” she said. “That’s all they’re in there for.”
The vice chief makes $116,000, the council chairman $65,000, the council vice chairman $62,500 and council members $60,000.
There are six candidates for vice chief, which also requires a $500 filing fee, according to the tribe’s board of election office. There are 27 candidates running for 12 seats on the tribal council. The filing fee for council is $300.
Filing fees that high exclude many Cherokee from even considering participating in the political arena, tribe member Danny Crowe said. He also objected to the amount of annual salary received by elected officials.
“They set their own,” he said. “And most of them just sit in there and nod their heads. I want somebody that will ask the opinion of people instead of doing stuff to benefit themselves.”
Crowe expressed frustration that there was no public referendum held on building a golf course nor a controversial move to court a Wal-Mart Super Store to come to the reservation by offering discounted property.