Gary Hayes opted to not seek another tribal council term in last month’s election, but his local, state and national advocacy efforts on behalf of the tribe were applauded on Friday, Nov. 6.
“It’s been an honor and a privilege to serve each and everyone of you,” Hayes told a standing-room only crowd inside tribal chambers.
Crediting the creator’s guidance and wisdom, Hayes challenged tribal members to continue fighting for their sovereignty. Stating legislators in Washington, D.C. wanted to dictate the tribe’s livelihood, Hayes said they must continue to raise their voices in unison and demand a bigger piece of the pie.
“If we’re not at the table, then we’re on the menu,” Hayes said.
Hayes reminded tribal members that they should follow the creator’s example of compassion and forgiveness, and help lift one another up instead of tearing one another down.
“Together, we can make things better,” Hayes said.
Each council member thanked Hayes for his confident leadership, passionate inspiration and sacrificial commitment to the tribe.
“Gary has been a champion for us,” said Vice Chairman Juanita Plentyholes, who was re-elected to the council last month.
“He’s a good man with a good heart,” added Southern Ute Chairman Clement Frost, who gifted his beaded bolo tie to Hayes.
Replacing Hayes was Marissa Box, who won the seat after a fifth campaign attempt. A Ute Mountain Ute employee for two decades, Box’s mother, aunt, brother and both grandfathers previously served as tribal leaders.
“We need to love one another,” Box said moments after being sworn into office. “Stand together. Stand strong.”
Stating she had walked in the same shoes and faced the same struggles of tribal members, Box vowed that she was there to listen when her constituents needed to cry for help.
“I’m not going to let you down,” Box said to a round of applause. “I’m ready for the challenge.”
With Box’s election, a 5-2 female majority now controls the Ute Mountain Ute tribal council. Nominated by the council, DeAnne House was tapped as treasurer and Pricilla Blackhawk-Rentz was selected to serve as treasurer.
After receiving recent complaints, Chairman Manuel Heart informed the tribe that at least two council members would be at tribal headquarters Monday through Friday. The announcement brought a round of applause.
“We’re here for you,” Heart said.
Heart added that the elected legislative body would continue to focus on four priorities: health care, education, housing and economic development.
In last month’s election, Box received 159 votes, or nearly 1 in 4 cast. Plentyholes was re-elected with 130 votes. A total of 689 ballots were cast, an above average turnout, according to tribal officials.