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Catawba to elect new leadership 7-07

ROCK HILL, S.C. (AP) - Members of the Catawba Indian tribe are voting on a new chief this weekend and they likely will be looking for someone to help lead the tribe past years of bitter infighting.

“You've heard the old saying about too many chiefs, not enough Indians. Some of that was going on,” tribal member Gene Blue said. “We need new people in here to make better decisions. It will be a new start.”

The election comes four months after longtime Chief Gilbert Blue resigned amid growing criticism.

Some tribal members described the 73-year-old former chief as out of touch and unwilling to listen to opposing viewpoints. They accused him of mismanaging the tribe's finances and said he wouldn't hold elections on a regular schedule as the tribal constitution requires.

Chief Blue denied the charges, but agreed it was time for a new leader.

“My only concern is that whoever gets in there is someone who will have concern for the tribe,” said Blue, who led the tribe for 40 years.

The Catawbas hope as many as 1,000 ballots will be cast in the four-person race for chief. Most of those votes are expected to be absentee. There are 1,800 eligible voters nationwide out of the tribe's 2,600 members.

Voters also will choose an assistant chief, secretary-treasurer and executive committee members.

“In a way, this is kind of a scary time because you don't know what you're going to end up with,” tribal member Jason Harris said. “If you have an all new executive committee with no experience, you don't know if that is going to be a setback. But this is what everybody wanted.”

A new administration has to get a grip on the tribe's finances and housing and health care programs. The tribe also needs a new constitution.
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