Four candidates will compete for two seats on the Southern Ute Tribal Council in a runoff election after unofficial election results posted Nov. 1 showed races too close to call.
Former chairman James “Mike” Olguin and Ramona Eagle, a former council member, tied with 91 votes, according to a Twitter post by the SUIT communications department. Adam Red, the only incumbent candidate, was just behind with 90 votes, and Marjorie Barry, an employee of the tribe, received 78 votes.
The results are based on 476 valid votes from tribal members, which the tribe certified Monday. Eligible tribal members will return to the polls Dec. 13 to vote on the remaining four candidates.
Originally, six candidates competed for two open spots on the council. Two candidates, John Washington, an employee of the tribe, and Conrad Thompson, a local business owner, will not be in the runoff election.
Tribal Council Affairs declined to comment on the elections.
The council manages and regulates economic, land, water and mineral assets – which, for the Southern Ute tribe, means managing a multi-billion-dollar economy. They govern 16 departments, the general welfare of tribal members and the tribal justice system, among other duties, according to the tribe’s constitution.
Council members also work closely with the federal government. For example, during his last term, Olguin represented tribal economic, natural resource and environmental interests in front of various federal departments and congressional committees in 2016. He was also one of six council members targeted by a recall effort in 2015.
During his term, Red joined the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Royalty Policy Committee, according to Native News Online, while working as a GIS specialist for the Southern Ute Growth Fund, according to his LinkedIn profile.
As a former vice chairwoman, Eagle worked with the Southern Ute Growth Fund and the town of Ignacio, according to news reports. During the campaign, Eagle, retired, focused on improving unity within the tribe, tribal asset management and balancing growth and culture.
Other top issues this election season included financial planning, economic investments, member benefits, health care and Ute language education.
Barry emphasized improving Ute language education, the tribe’s financial plan and the tribal credit program. Barry, the executive office manager for the Tribal Health Department, has worked in several roles in the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs and executive administrative roles within the tribe, according to her candidate statement.
Olguin and Red could not be reached for further comment. Eagle and Barry agreed to interviews and then either could not be reached or canceled because of a scheduling conflict.
After Dec. 13, the new council members will join Chairman Christine Sage, Vice Chairman Cheryl Frost, Treasurer Lorelei Cloud, council member Bruce Valdez and council member Cedric Chavez.
Melvin Baker, the other member who left the council, chose not to run again at the end of his term. Conrad Thompson, a local businessman, and John Washington, an employee of the tribe, ran for seats on the council but are not part of the runoff election.