PEMBROKE — Lumbee Tribal Chairman Paul Brooks doesn’t agree with Tribal Council members and constituents who say a lack of unity between the tribe’s executive and legislative branches of government is tearing the tribe apart.
“I’m doing everything possible to work with the council to move the tribe forward,” Brooks said. “We have to work together.”
Lumbee voters go to the polls Tuesday to decide if Brooks will continue to have that opportunity as they elect a chairman and seven council members. As of Aug. 17, the latest figures available from the tribe’s Board of Elections show there are 32,252 tribal members eligible to vote.
Carvicous Barfield, chairman of the Board of Elections, said recently that if the number of absentee ballots requested are any indication of Tuesday’s voter turnout, it’s going to be a slow day at the polls.
“We only had requests for 436 absentee ballots, and that’s the lowest in at least five years,” she said.
Barfield warned that the tribe’s election laws do not have a provision for write-in votes. Write-ins will be considered “spoiled ballots,” and will not be counted, she said.
The election is being called the “most vicious and bloodiest” in tribal history by some observers.
Brooks is facing a stiff challenge for re-election from former Chairman Jimmy Goins. Also vying for the tribe’s top elected position is Lynn Bruce Jacobs, who ran unsuccessfully for chairman last year.
Brooks was elected chairman in November 2011 in a special election to fill the remaining one-year term of former Chairman Purnell Swett. A Pembroke native, Brooks has more than 40 years of experience in education, business and public service.
Brooks told The Robesonian that he plans to continue working to bring jobs to the area that can provide work for the Lumbee people. He said in addition to economic development, his priorities include working closely with the tribe’s elders and Boys & Girls clubs to assure that services are provided.
Brooks said ensuring that the tribe’s housing-rehabilitation program is adequately funded is also high on his list of priorities. In his proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which has not yet been approved by the Tribal Council, he has asked for an increase in funding for housing rehabilitation and construction.
“I’m very concerned that tribal members have clean, decent, sanitary housing,” he said. “I’m especially interested in seeing that the housing needs of the elders and disabled are met.”
Brooks said he recently learned that with the help of the council, a company in need of 100 employees to install cellphone towers plans to hire and train Lumbee workers interested in the jobs. Training for the jobs, which will pay $26 an hour, will be in Tennessee, where the company is headquartered.
“This is what can happen when the chairman and the council work together,” Brooks said.
He added that working toward full federal recognition for the Lumbee tribe is another priority, although exactly how he will proceed on that issue is uncertain.
“I’m not sure how we will do this with the environment that’s now in Washington,” he said. “We are currently deliberating to determine how we should move forward.”
In addition to serving as the tribe’s chairman, Brooks is chairman of the N.C. Commission of Indian Affairs and serves on the board of the state’s Golden LEAF Foundation.
Goins held the office of chairman from 2004 to 2010. He could not seek re-election in 2010 because the tribe’s constitution does not allow more than two consecutive three-year terms.
Before becoming chairman, Goins had served years as a member of the Tribal Council and was instrumental in drafting and finalizing the tribe’s constitution. As chairman, he led tribal efforts to move the Lumbee Recognition Bill through both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate.
Goins was a member of the Lumbee Self-Determination Commission from 1998 to 2000. He owns and operates an insurance agency in Red Springs.
Goins said there needs to be unity among branches of government and tribal members.
“We need to get tribal government back working with the people. It appears the government is working against them,” he said. “We should make sure there is mutual respect between the tribal administration and legislative branch of government, but more important is that there be mutual respect between the government and the tribal membership.
“Right now there is a wall between the administration and the council, which is causing a lack of communication. If there is talk, problems can be solved. If we walk away, problems can’t be solved.”
Goins said he wants to get the tribe’s housing-rehab program “back under control” so money goes for housing services for those in need, especially the elders and disabled. He said economic development has to be a tribal priority.
Federal recognition is also high on Goins’ list of priorities, with a caveat.
“The time is just not right,” he said. “At this time it would be better for us to push for the development of better bridges with other tribes in Indian Country.”
Goins believes his past experience has prepared him to be a better chairman and leader of the tribe.
“I’ve seen mistakes I made in the past, and I won’t make them again,” he said. “I now have a better perspective on how government works.”
Jacobs told The Robesonian that he is running his second campaign based on the need for tribal unity.
“There’s power in unity. No tribe, or any community, can survive without it,” he said. “We need to reach out one person to another … . We need to bring our communities together.”
Jacobs is senior pastor at Crying Spirit Ministries in Fairmont and a former owner of Siouan Transportation. He’s also served as an outreach coordinator for Palmer Prevention Inc., a school director-manager for Trans Tech Inc., an office manager/assistant system administrator for Nash Finch Inc. and a project training officer in the U.S. Army.
Jacobs said putting people back to work is critical. He suggested that the tribe seek grants that could fund the purchase of some area plants that have closed down. Also, he said, the tribe should focus on expanding agriculture as a means of establishing a solid economy.
Jacobs said the tribe’s rehab and new construction programs might need to be revamped.
“If they are set up properly, we have to see if they are operating properly,” he said. “As a records manager, that’s something I can do.”
Jacobs declined to say what he would do to move the recognition process forward.
“I’m keeping that close to the vest,” he said.
Voters in seven districts will vote to elect representatives to the 21-member council. Those districts and candidates are:
n District 1 (Orrum, Rowland, Sterlings, Thompson, Whitehouse, Gaddys): Billy “Dollar Bill” Oxendine, Remondie Hunt, Evan Davenport.
n District 4 (Philadelphus, Red Springs): Retha Kenworthy, Jonathan Locklear.
n District 5 (Oxendine, Prospect): Millicent Collins, Ruby Locklear, Bobby Oxendine.
n District 7: (South Pembroke, Union): Robert Chavis, Cody Eagle Horse Godwin.
n District 9 (Saddletree): Dewey McNeill, Anita Blanks, Richard Terry Locklear
n District 10 (Rennert, Shannon, South St. Pauls): Terry Collins.
n District 14 (Britts, East Howellsville, Wishart): Jimmy Hunt, Homer Fields.
Polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. Polling sites are: District 1 — Rowland Police Department, Gaddys, Orrum Town Hall; District 2 — Smyrna Fire Department, Fairmont Town Hall, Southern Spirit Boys & Girls Club; District 3 — West Lumberton Elementary School, Soaring Eagle Community Center, Barker Ten Miles Mens Club; District 4 — Red Springs Rescue Building, Lumbee Lodge Community Center; District 5 — Oxendine Elementary School, Prospect Elementary School; District 6 — Indian Education Building, O.P. Owens Library; District 7 — Pembroke Middle School, Union Elementary School; District 8 — Union Chapel Community Building; District 9 — Four Winds Community Building; District 10 — Rennert Community Building, St. Pauls Courthouse; District 11 — Hawkeye Sand Apt., Hawkeye Boys & Girls Club; District 12 — Alfordsville VFW, Queheel Fire Department, Stewartsville Fire Department; District 13 — Lumber Bridge Town Hall, N.C. Indian Housing Authority; and District 14 — First Nation Boys & Girls Club.