Ivan Smith Elected New Tonto Apache Tribe Chair


The Tonto Apache Tribe elected a new tribal chair Saturday after its previous chair was forced out amidst questions of misconduct.

Former chairperson Ivan Smith was elected Nov. 8 after winning out over Louise Lopez.

Vote totals were not available and members of the tribal council were unavailable for comment as of press time Tuesday.

Smith is the brother of former chairperson Jeri Johnson DeCola who resigned Sept. 30 after the tribal council requested she leave the position after security videotape showed her drinking in the Mazatzal Hotel and Casino.

DeCola says she was grieving the two-year anniversary of her daughter’s death at the time and may “have not dealt with my loss in the most appropriate manner.”

Three members of the five-member tribal council requested DeCola leave, although she broke no laws. To avoid being banned from holding tribal office for 10 years, DeCola resigned.

Shortly after resigning, DeCola took a trip to the Caribbean and missed the opportunity to run and fill the seat again.

“I was gone in the Caribbean when that happened,” DeCola said.

According to the tribe’s constitution, anyone running for office cannot be convicted of a felony or have a misdemeanor in the last year. All candidates must have fingerprints taken to verify identity and criminal background. Because DeCola was out of the country, she missed the Oct. 24 fingerprint deadline.

DeCola said she may have run in the primary election, but was unsure at the time if she wanted to.

“I congratulate my brother, wish them the best and hope things work out for the tribe overall,” DeCola said. “Now what I want to do is focus on my business and company. I am enjoying my time off.”


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