Power struggle keeps Porter on tribe’s sidelines

When this newspaper a week ago today learned that the Lumbee Tribal Council, by a vote of 12-6, had rejected Chairman Harvey Godwin Jr.’s recommendation that Freda Porter be approved as tribal administrator, we were on deadline and had little time to manufacture a story.

It didn’t help when we received Porter’s resume, which was 11 pages long, challenging our reporter as she battled a clock. Porter’s resume, we want to emphasize, is packed with performance, not puff, and we don’t have the space here to fairly represent it, but we can share some highlights.

Porter is a successful businesswoman, the president and CEO of Pembroke-based Porter Scientific Inc., which provides environmental consulting services, research and support to clients that include the United States Departments of Defense and Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency.

She holds multiple degrees in math, a bachelor’s in Mathematics from The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, a master’s in Applied Mathematics from North Carolina State University, and a doctorate in Applied Mathematics from no less than Duke University. She has worked as a research associate, an assistant professor, a defense contractor and as a consultant for UNCP, North Carolina A&T, the EPA, and NASA.

She is a member of the N.C. Defense Business Association board of directors, was a trustee of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, served as the chair of the UNCP board of trustees, and founded UNCP’s American Indian Science and Engineering Society.

Said Godwin: “When I was running for this office I got a mandate from the people to represent them in the best way possible. I can’t do that alone … The tribal administrator position is vital to that. Having a tribal administration with her credentials and her business background I think is vital to our government at this particular time.”

Tribal Council Speaker Bill James Brewington, in speaking with The Robesonian about the council’s thumbs-down vote, didn’t question Porter’s credentials, but instead questioned how her recommendation had been orchestrated, suggesting Godwin had not involved the council. Council members seemed offended that Godwin had established a director’s job, and put Porter in it to assist with administrative duties following the departure of the interim administrator, Dock Locklear.

The director’s job did not need council’s approval, while the administrator’s does, so Godwin essentially slipped Porter into The Turtle any through a loophole.

So the council’s decision appears to be a show of strength; perhaps reason will prevail when Godwin resubmits Porter’s name in the coming weeks.

The No. 1 ingredient the tribal government lacks is credibility among its own people, and hiring someone with Porter’s abilities goes a long way toward fulfilling the often-unmet pledge in this county of hiring based on qualifications instead of political patronage.

We hope the Tribal Council doesn’t play any more games with this potential hire: We are convinced that the tribal governments needs Porter more than she needs it.

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