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Report by Chairman Willie A. Sharp Jr.
“Out with the Old Ways, in with the New Ways. That’s how we are
solving big problems and making real, rapid progress.”
Like many jobs, things often look completely different from the outside than from the inside. When I was first elected to Council I had much the same view as many Tribal members of what was wrong and what needed fixing: Finances were in bad shape, economic development was at a standstill, members lacked confidence in leadership, and on and on.
Before I was on Council, from the outside the problems appeared to be matters of indecision, inaction, lack of resources, incompetence, corruption, bad timing, and bad judgment. So from the outside, the solutions appeared simple: Clean house, take bold action, make the most of existing resources, keep forging ahead and success will be ours.
But once I was in the job, and especially after I was made Chairman, the true problems of the Tribe became clear to me. The problem is the Old Ways: the self-defeating, ultimately ruinous ways of doing things on Council and in Tribal government that have become ingrained over decades. The Old Ways are a cancer that the Tribe has lived with for so long that many people don’t even recognize it in themselves and don’t know any other way of doing things.
Before this Tribe could start moving forward again, before real, lasting progress, prosperity, and pride could grow new roots and flourish, we first had to yank the Old Ways out by the roots and replant. In the last few elections, voters did their part by yanking out the cancerous old roots. This New Council is doing their part by planting the seeds of new policies, new ideas, and a new spirit of action. Now, together, the entire Tribe is for the first time in a long time moving ahead swiftly and surely.
But before we rejoice too much let’s talk about the Old Ways to ensure they never come back to hurt us again. These are the Old Ways: Councilmen who create little kingdoms for themselves, do endless favors for friends and family but never accomplish much for the Tribe, spend and travel lavishly and wastefully for no good reason, and expend more time and energy trying to kill important projects that they can’t take credit for than actually having any good ideas of their own. In the end, a Councilmen who embodies the Old Ways does the Tribe more harm than good.
The Old Ways spread to staff, as well, who view keeping their job, rather than doing their job, as the primary purpose. Everyone in the Tribe has seen high-value, high-priority projects milked for years of paychecks with little or no actual progress.
The Old Ways spread to members, too. They saw problems mounting and leadership and staff doing little to get us out of the hole we’ve dug, so they become dispirited and pessimistic. They develop a sense of entitlement because if Council and staff are getting a free ride, why shouldn’t members get one too? They are taught by example that it is “every man for himself.”
So my primary message to you is this: The reason this Tribe is finally starting to move forward in big and bold ways is that this Council has shaken off the Old Ways and is fully committed to New Ways.
Now let’s talk about the New Ways that will carry us from a Proud Past to a Bright Future. Our watchwords are: Accountability, Transparency, Communication, Decisiveness, Performance, Results, Ethics above reproach, and Instant Action when opportunities and problems arise
With the New Ways the Council no longer operates as a collection of self-serving kingdoms. Now, if a Councilman has an idea / project / request, it is evaluated by the entire BTBC, and judged on its merits and promise -- i.e. “Is this good for the Tribe?” is the sole criteria.
With the New Ways we’ve made it impossible for individual Councilmen to spend money or use resources without 6 BTBC signatures. The days of Councilmen jetting off to a nice vacation spot under the guise of some pointless event or meeting or making deals on their own are gone. We don’t even carry credit cards anymore.
The New Ways means the Council and staff must be role models for how to do things, not how NOT to do things.