The Ute Mountain Ute tribe voted for change Friday, electing a new tribal chairman and three new tribal council members.
In a landslide victory, Harold Cuthair was elected the new tribal chairman, winning over incumbent chairman Manuel Heart by a vote of 376-201, according to unofficial results in Towaoc.
Colleen Cuthair-Root earned 178 votes and Prisllena Rabbit garnered 169 votes to unseat council members Priscilla Blackhawk-Rentz and Regina Lopez Whiteskunk. And challenger Elaine Cantsee unseated incumbent Malcolm Lehi, 58-36, for the White Mesa council seat.
Cuthair, speaking in Ute then English, addressed a packed community center in Towaoc that gathered to watch the final vote tally on a large white board.
“I will make the changes we talked about and will work for the people,” he said. “I’m not going to get up here and forget about you. We will talk together, have meals together, and brainstorm together on how to address the issues we face.”
Cuthair said he would focus on improving education opportunities “so we can get the jobs we need, and I will promote security to make our people safe.”
Newly elected councilwomen Cuthair-Root and Rabbit celebrated with family and friends after the results came in.
“I will be advocating for change and for more participation from our youth,” Cuthair-Root said. “Another focus of mine will be to educate and train our people so they can take over as department heads.”
Rabbit said her plans on council will be to establish focus groups to determine the needs of the community.
“I want the people to decide what issues I will work on,” she said.
Rabbit is dedicated to social issues, including coordinating a suicide prevention program and working to solve the problem of domestic violence.
“A need I see in this community is more mental health counselors,” she said. “We are a strong people. When we stand together and help each other, we create positive change in our community.”
Cuthair, who has served on tribal council, was elected chairman for the first time. He begins his three-year term on Nov. 1.
“Thank you for allowing me to serve the Ute Mountain Ute tribe,” he said.
Of the losing candidates, incumbents Priscilla Blackhawk-Rentz won 121 votes, and Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk won 90 votes. Challengers Lyndreth Wall won 137 votes; Bradley Hight, 109 votes; and Angelita Berry, 52 votes. Twenty-five votes were deemed invalid.