Hotel Tops Agenda For New Tribal Leadership

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Newly re-elected Tonto Apache Tribal Chairperson Vivian Burdette, who was sworn into office along with three newcomers Saturday, said the tribe is poised to build a hotel near the casino.

"We've tried to make that a reality for some time," she said Monday. "Now that the new rodeo grounds are complete, the timing seems perfect. So we'll get right to work on that idea."

During the election this month, which was open only to tribal members, Burdette became the first council chairperson to win re-election since the late, highly regarded Chief Melton Campbell was re-elected in 1986. This month, she also became one of the few Native Americans in the country to be named a delegate to the National Democratic Convention.

"I didn't even know it was such an honor to be named a delegate until people started congratulating me," Burdette said. "Now I realize it is. And to be re-elected at the same time means so much to me."

During the tribal election, Ivan Smith, his son, Nathan Campbell, and Calvin Johnson were elected to the tribal board for the first time. Smith will serve as vice chairperson, and Councilmember Wakita Tennin will be up for re-election next year.

Comics clear the house

The newly formed tribal council was to be officially presented at a luncheon Friday at the Mazatzal Casino, following an hour-long appearance by a pair of amateur comedians.

That plan, however, didn't work as expected, Burdette said.

"The comedians were pretty foul-mouthed and offensive to many of those in attendance," Burdette said, "so much of the audience left before the presentation. By the time it was over, there were only a few people left. It was an extremely unfortunate situation."

Among those who departed prematurely were Payson Mayor Ray Schum, Payson councilmembers Dick Wolfe and Bryan Siverson, Payson historian Stan Brown, and Gila County Supervisor Ron Christensen.

The council's official swearing-in was set for Saturday morning, and that went off without a hitch, Burdette said.

"I am very pleased with the makeup of our new council," she said. "We have so many goals right now, and I think this group will work hard to accomplish all of them."

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