After my last blog a couple of days ago about negative campaigning and my thoughts on dealing with people who attack people based on their own personal hatred, I spent part of the time evaluating my future. I will be finish up my MBA degree at UNR in August and then my term will end as Treasurer for my Tribe in October (if I don’t run for reelection or if I lose). It appears that I may be at a crossroads in terms of my employment future.
A few months ago I heard a song (and its become one of my favorites) called “Put It Into Drive” by Doc Walker and the first line of song goes “put it into drive, take it for a ride, here you are at the crossroads of your life, there’s a highway waiting on you”. I didn’t think a song would lead to a blog entry but when I was listening to it over the weekend I realized that many of lyrics were speaking to what I’ve been thinking and feeling recently.
As upcoming fall season starts I see a crossroad coming up pretty fast and that has me already thinking about my future. I believe that my years of experience in contracts & grants management and the knowledge learned in the past four years as a political official coupled with my MBA degree will open up new opportunities for me.
Going back to my blog inspiration another verse goes “stand up tall, on the hood of that car, scream out loud and find out who you are and where you are going to”. While I haven’t hopped up on my truck hood, I think this upcoming crossroad will have me accessing my comfort levels. Of course I’m nervous about the prospect of possibly not having a job in a few months and that I may be embarking in a new direction for my life but the bigger challenge that I foresee is how far am I willing to go on a new road. Do I leave my family and friends here in northern Nevada since I’m a Native Nevada who was born and lived in this area all my life for a possible bigger opportunity somewhere else or do I settle for something less then I want to remain close to where I feel comfortable with a support system of family/friends (as well as having a paid-off house).
I think I am having some of the same feelings I had when I graduated from high school as my upcoming graduation from UNR’s MBA Program approaches – excitement and nervousness as a possible new chapter begins to unfold. I don’t know exactly which road I may end up on in the next few months or where it will lead me to, but I do believe that it’s going to be an interesting journey. For now, though, I need to focus on completing my short-term task both in my class and my elected position, but as these next 3-4 months come and go also look at the opportunities that may arise and present themselves to help my when I reach that crossroad and see approaching. With that I go back to the song which got me thinking and which started this blog – this blog started with the opening line of that song and the last verse is the same thing except its ends with a question: “Put it into drive, take it for a ride, here you are at the crossroads of your life, what you going to do?”
I’m going a little bit off-topic for my first blog of this week. My blog has been focused on my current life’s journey as the elected Treasurer of my Tribe and its governing body, and dealing with many of the issues that face mine and other Native communities. This time though I’m writing on how politics can become ugly real quick which we have all seen with some of the recent Senate primaries.
Elections and Negative Campaigns – Things Get Ugly Fast
My Tribe’s election process has just started and my position is up for election. Our nomination process doesn’t end for about two months and I should make my decision on whether I’m running again in about 6 weeks.
Already though the politics have started up and a few individuals are attempting to insert themselves into the process through the use of assorted lies and other false claims. Having going through this in my first election my reaction has been not to bring myself down to that level and avoiding a confrontation which I believe is what one particular person wants. During any type of an election, people can always expect some negative campaigning with lies and other false verbal accusations spread around. You got to expect this and develop a hard skin or you won’t make it too long.
Confronting a Bully or Ignoring Them
Over the past 3 years, I’ve tried to ignore some of these individuals and the lies that they try to spread by either ignoring the matter or calmly explain facts in the matter (that seems to try them into more of a frenzy though). But a recent situation has got me wondering whether I should choose to confront these people using the appropriate channels.
In a nutshell, one individual submitted a ballot question on an official form, signed it, and submitted it to the proper officials. In this proposed question, though, he made a number of written false statements about me and few other officials. My initial thought was that this was just another typical tactic of this person and I don’t intend to give him the pleasure of going tit-for-tat with him on something I know is false. But one of the other officials in the matter and some community members have come to me and want me to file a formal complaint because in the past this person’s accusations were verbal and slander is hard to provide in a court. But because it’s in writing with the individual’s signature it was noted that there is better legal argument for libel. These individuals feel something needs to be done because they have heard other people asking of its true and not.
The Question of the Day
In my mind I feel that there are two paths that I can follow:
- Confront this individual using the proper legal tools that are available under our laws and at least get some measure of accountability held on him and in turn provide a way to correct people of the false statements he made; or
- Avoid the legal arena and inform people of the truth and that this individual is make false statements but in turn not pursuing a method that would hold him accountable for these types of false statements he throws around.
Either way I go, though, it will not stop this person or discourage him from making up other lies and false accusations. So either path will not stop him and reasoning with this person will not work as his personal hatred is so strong towards me and a few others that it would be like talking to a wall. So for me it comes down to what should I to protect myself professionally, personally, and politically.
The question that I am putting on this blog post is to get some other thoughts on this matter. Basically how would you handle this type of situation or do you see another path that could be taken that might be better?
It seems that as a member of our Tribal Council, or I suppose with any type of elected/governing body, a lot of time is spent on crisis management and having to react to situations that arisen in the programs that provide services to our members/constituents. I know that being proactive is a better strategy than having to reactive but that is a type of luxury that doesn’t seem to fall to those in executive and management levels.
Being proactive sounds great and looks good on paper but, to me, is seems that when you start managing at higher levels (as in my case being part of the Executive/Legislative branch) that it doesn’t really work on that way. At lower levels it seems that when a crisis erupts or a major problem surfaces one can just refer to a policy for direction or refer the matter up the chain of command. But when you are in a position where you are the top of the chain, the policies, procedures, and guidelines that are in place may not be as effective when dealing with issues that threaten the health and safety of people. I’ve found out over the years that what looks good on paper may not be as easily implemented nor provide for the direction to address issues in a rapid response.
So how should one proceed when this arises? For me I guess that means having to look at the urgent/emergency situation that has arisen and then in discussion with my other elected officials on the Council develop a plan to address the situation but being mindful that we need to try to work with the scope of our adopted policies/procedures while also trying to make sure that situation doesn’t spiral out of control while this occurs. I’ll be the first one to admit that it’s a delicate balancing act because on one hand you want to follow established processes so as not to place the Tribe or ourselves in any type of liability and then on the other hand these established processes may require going through a number of steps that could take a long time to be completed and in turn placing the welfare of people and employees in limbo.
I won’t claim to be an expert in the best way to handle these situations nor do I believe that there is really any sort of standard process that can be easily implemented that addresses everything that can occur (especially when you are dealing with items as a governing body of a government). The only thing that I can really provide is how I approach these matters and then see if anyone else has a better solution/approach to a situation – this is the manner that I approach it:
- Try to identify the source of the problem and also determine what level of seriousness is the issue and the risks that our people/constituents/employees face if we don’t act in a timely manner;
- Is there an adopted policy and procedure that can assist us in determining the course of action to follow and then if so we need to evaluate if that process will be beneficial in resolving the matter or if it will hinder our ability to address the matter before people are hurt;
- If policy/procedure exists and provides for a mechanism to address the issue while ensuring people are protected then it’s a simple matter to follow that process until resolution occurs;
- If policy/procedures exists but cannot ensure a timely resolution of problem and the probability that irreparable harm will occur, then working together as a Council what steps should be implement to address the problem mindful that we need to protect all parties involved and that by going outside the process a liability may be created; or
- If no policy/procedure exists for the type of issue then the Council would need to develop an emergency law/policy/resolution that would address the situation and then after the matter has been resolved have staff develop a policy/procedure to address the matter in the future.
This might not be the best approach to issues but sometimes protecting the health and safety of one’s people and employees must always be the highest priority and this sometimes means that establish policies and procedures may not be adequate for all situations. Before I was elected as a member of the governing body I always felt that policies and procedures should be the only thing considered in addressing situations, but that has changed and, for me, I realize that even the best developed policies/procedures may not address everything nor provide for immediate solutions when matters of public welfare are concerned. I know that issues may differ from the business sector or non-profit world, but if anyone else has solutions/ideas I am always up to hearing them because no one person knows it all and sometimes there is someone out there who may have a different approach that produces better results.
Another hectic week is almost half-way gone. Sitting down here writing one of blogs for this week got me thinking about all of the work and education related activities that I am handling and whether when you are giving 200% whether something is going to or already has suffered from being spread out too thin. As my Tribe’s Treasurer I have an ongoing daily function to monitor the activities that are occurring in the three departments that I oversee – Finance, Taxation, and Contracts & Grants (the micro level for me) – coupled with my duties as being an elected official and working to address many of the social, economic, and community needs, issues, and problems that also occur on a daily basis (my macro level). This doesn’t include time and obligations that are needed as a student in the UNR EMBA Program, as well as the President of the Board of Directors for the Tribe’s Development Corporation.
In the micro level of my position I got to handle employee supervision, procurement requests, monitoring bank levels and investment strategies all the while my handling the macro level activities of addressing public concerns and issues, Council meetings (open, closed, and executive sessions), meetings with various government agencies, and working with the Council to make sure the entire governmental operations are providing the best services to our membership.
At times I wish I had an assistant to help organize and coordinate everything going on like the other two-full-time Council Officers have in their offices. But other times I realize that as chaotic as it the situation may be, it does make me rise to the occasion and realize that I have to be willing to accept the situation and move forward the best I can. During any given week there may be an item that may not get handled right away, but I know that in the end it will be handled both correctly and in a manner that doesn’t impact any of my operations and services. I guess that’s what it’s all about – rising up in the face of adversity (in my case that being all of the obligations I have undertaken) and meeting the challenge head on. Nobody said life was going to a 9 to 5 job and then go home. In my position and actually in case of most people I believe we there are many of us in the same position – we got so much going on sometimes keeping up with everything seems impossible. I guess that I’m one of those people that thrive on the constant level of activity and would be lost without. But I guess what I’m saying is the drive and passion to move forward and make ourselves better – especially the group of us in the EMBA Program – also the trait that will allow us to succeed no matter where we are going or end up at. Okay I think that finishes my thoughts for today with some inner reflections (or ramblings) and a final thought that brings it all together (at least I hope).
I started my blog while I was on a business trip to Alaska for the mid-year session of the National Congress of American Indians and then after I returned home to Fallon I followed this up with an entry about some of my reflections from that Tribe. I’ve decided to tie my recent trip and what I learned, experienced, and saw in Alaska with where I am going.
As I look forward to the future, more specifically in the short-term, I realize that my term for my position as Treasurer for the Tribe comes up for election in October and I will have to make a decision by early August as whether I will be putting back in for a second term. I realized from my recent trip that while I have accomplished a lot in my current position, there is still more that can be achieved – even in the few months left of my first term. I spent the majority of my time during my first 3 ½ months in office rebuilding a Finance Department that only had one staff member who had stayed from the prior office holder and from an audit back in 2009 that had about 20 significant audit findings. With the assistance of a rebuilt staff and support from the Council, all of the issues have been resolved and the Tribe has got its first clean audit in over 20 years and we continue to move forward on making our services more transparent and more accessible by our membership. As the Treasurer my constitutional duties are tied heavily to the financial management of the Tribe, but also as being a member of the Fallon Business Council, the governing body of the Tribe, I also have an obligation and responsibility towards looking at all of the issues that impact the Tribe and its members. I think that this is biggest reflection that I brought back from my recent travel (as well as from the other trips I took this year as tribal business). Now that my Finance Department is in order and I have a qualified group of people operating the daily business, this will allow me to focus on some of the political goals I would like see implemented. This includes items such as a job training program for the tribal members, working to establish more community facilities on the Reservation (new community center, a park, and a local community store), as well as working to update our laws and policies to reflect the 21st century (most of our laws and policies have not been changed since the 1980’s). While I don’t know for sure if I am running for a second term or if I will be voted back in if a run again, this doesn’t mean that I should stop from starting to implement some of the projects I would like to see happen. It just means that I need to move forward and at least begin the process of implementation so that if I’m not there that the next person and Council can take my at least as been developed and work to implement it during their time. I think that’s where I’m going to end my reflections from my Alaska trip – with a reflection that the future is very fluid and nothing is certain but that doesn’t mean one should look at items with that type of a focus but rather that moving forward can lead to great change (even if you aren’t there to make it happen, more than likely you’ll be able to see it implemented).
After spending six days in Alaska after a successful mid-year NCAI conference and now having a couple of times back at home I finally feel up to looking back at my experience. This wasn’t my first NCAI conference but it was my first visit to Alaska. It is a beautiful place and I had the opportunity to take a drive on the Seward Highway and see some amazing views and I would love the chance visit again except this time on a vacation so I can see and do more. Of course, though, there were some stuff that I didn’t enjoy – the first being the weather as it was a bit more colder then I like (but at least I didn’t go in winter) and the amount of daylight hours was interesting at first but after a few days I was really missing having nights to see the stars and be able to sleep (it really messed up my sleeping schedule).
Enough though of my personal thoughts on my recent trip and let me get down to some observations and reflections of my trip. Listening to many of the general and breakout sessions from the conference I realize that while Indian Tribes have comes a long way in trying to address the number of social and economic conditions that inflict our people – from poverty, high dropout rates, high mortality rates to trying to establish viable and growing communities – there is a long way to go. While each Tribe has to address their own conditions on their own lands, I also recognize that when we also act in a unified fashion, as NCAI allows us to do, then we enhance our changes to make a meaningful difference on a national front and promote legislation that protects and promotes our people and their survival while preserving our cultural heritage. For Native people, the preservation of our culture must remain a high priority while we move forward towards growing our Native communities especially in terms of economic development. Without our language, our traditions/culture, and our history, then we lose who we are as a people. I was reminded of this when at the conference when we attended a reception at the Alaska Native Cultural Center and was able to see a number of their youth who were active in the traditional dance, songs, and regalia making that defined their villages and this couples with the Youth Congress from NCAI where Native youth address issues that are of concern to them and to report that back to the General Assembly.
The NCAI Conference again as made me proud to be not only an elected official who is working to improve conditions on my own Tribe, but also as a member of a people that have not been completely assimilated. These are my initial thoughts from the conference but I intend to follow up this blog with another entry that takes my overall impressions that I detailed above and relate them back to a more local approach to governance and the development of the social, economic, and community needs for my own Tribe.
My first blog entry. Sounds easy enough but sitting here and thinking about how I want my blog to start our and develop is an important task. Do I want to focus on my personal life or by professional career. Sitting here though in my hotel room in Anchorage Alaska while attending an important conference I realized that my work and educational pursuits would the best subjects to cover. Why? Simply between working full-time as the Treasurer for the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe, as well as my service on the Tribe’s economic development arm, the federally-charted Fallon Tribal Development Corporation, and my current path in working towards my MBA degree at the University of Nevada, Reno, I realize that I really don’t have much of a personal life right now.
I have taken on a lot of professional endeavors currently but this is part of life – setting goals, objectives, and priorities and then working hard to achieve it. At my current point in life I have been focused on these professional objectives, but with my MBA program winding down and an upcoming election for the Treasurer position I currently hold, the situation may change.
Enough of that for right now, though, let’s focus on today. Today and for the rest of the week I am in Anchorage at the mid-year session of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI). What is NCAI? It is an organization that is comprised of most of the Indian Tribes in the United States and is committed towards improving conditions on the Tribe – politically, socially, and economically. Tomorrow as the mid-year session commences I look forward to being able to network with other tribal leaders to discuss the pressing issues in Indian Country, as well as perhaps get some information that I can utilize to improve conditions at my own Tribe. And that’s why we have these regular sessions – to come together as representatives for various tribal government and work towards solutions. We may not always agree and differences may arise but I believe that we all want the same thing – to see our Tribe and out people succeed.
As both the Treasurer for my Tribe (an elected leader) and as the President for the Fallon Tribal Development Corporation, economic development is a strong priority that I believe in and guides many of my decisions. I am looking forward towards ways to make my Tribe and my people more self-sufficient and to strengthen our sovereignty and self-determination, while also working to protect and preserve the values and traditions that our ancestors have passed down to us.
I could ramble on for a while, but I want to keep my first blog somewhat short. Basically what I’m saying is that this blog represents my thoughts and issues as I press forwards in my professional activities – from my Tribe, its economic development arm, as well as in my educational pursuits. Goal and objective setting at crucial to determining one’s direction in this world and while the path may not always be clear I know that as long as I do what is right for myself and those I represent then I will press forward looking to meet those goals and then creating new ones.