Southern Utes to hold Tribal Council runoff

Four candidates seek two seats

The Southern Ute Indian Tribe will hold a runoff election Friday at the SunUte Community Center to select two new council members for the Tribal Council.

The election comes after no candidate received the required 170 votes in the first election, held Nov. 2.

The Tribal Council consists of six council members and a chairman, who regulates tribal relations, enacts ordinances, manages tribal funds and performs a variety of other tasks at the local and federal level.

Elections are held annually to elect two new council members to three-year terms.

The four candidates seeking seats Friday are Delbert D. Cuthair Jr., Adam Red, Alex S. Cloud and incumbent Howard D. Richards Sr.

In the Nov. 2 election, Cloud received 161 votes, or 46 percent of the ballots cast. Richards followed with 146 votes, 42 percent of those cast, while Red and Cuthair received 123 and 112 votes respectively.

The winners of the runoff will fill the seats of council members Joycelyn Dutchie and Howard Richards Sr., who is seeking re-election.

Those elected Friday will be sworn in Monday.

Candidates Richards Sr. and Cloud have both served on the council before. Cloud held a term from 2008 to 2011 while incumbent Richards Sr. also previously served as vice chairman and chairman.

In order to run for the Tribal Council, candidates must be at least 25 years old and have lived in the exterior boundaries of the Southern Ute Reservation for at least 90 days before the election. Additionally, candidates may serve only three terms.

Beth Santisteven, Tribal Council media coordinator, said the main concerns of tribal members include employment, health and maintaining tribal culture and traditions.

“The main thing is that all tribal members should not have to worry about their jobs being in jeopardy,” Cuthair said in a letter to Southern Ute Indian Tribe members published in the bimonthly tribal paper, The Drum.

Cuthair said Southern Ute members should never be excluded from a job because the position requires some training or because an employer believes the tribal member is not ready.

Red also spoke about education and jobs in his letter.

“My goal is to improve educational opportunities for anyone regardless of age. I also believe there is much needed improvement regarding housing for tribal membership on the reservation,” Red said in the letter.

Richards Sr. echoed these sentiments, saying the tribe needed to start identifying land on the reservation where additional homes could be built. He also called for continued budget reform and additional structure to Tribal Member Health.

Santisteven said runoff elections are frequent occurrences because of competitive council races.

“It is very important for tribal members to come out and vote because (members of the Tribal Council) are our voice at the federal level” she said.

Sarah Ford is an intern at The Durango Herald and a student at the University of Denver. Reach her at herald@durangoherald.com.