Diver earns Band's mandate for next four yearsIt was a race to the wire following Tuesday’s Fond du Lac Reservation General Election. But by the time the election board finished counting the ballots, incumbent Chairman Karen Diver had earned the right to head up the Reservation Business Committee for another four years.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
It was a race to the wire following Tuesday’s Fond du Lac Reservation General Election. But by the time the election board finished counting the ballots, incumbent Chairman Karen Diver had earned the right to head up the Reservation Business Committee for another four years.
Diver garnered 619 votes overall to edge out challenger and past chairman Peter J. Defoe, who came in with 569.
The outcome was uncertain from the get go. Of the 916 votes cast at the polls, Defoe came out on top at 506 with Diver trailing at 408. The balance was reversed when the absentee ballots were counted, however. Of the 274 absentee ballots cast, 211went to Diver and 63 to Defoe. That was enough of a mandate to push Diver over the top, and she will now continue to lead the Band on into the future.
“I look forward to working with the Reservation Business Committee in implementing the strategic plan that was developed by the Band’s membership,” commented Diver the morning following the election. “A major priority will be diversifying and growing the Band’s economic opportunities.”
Defoe, who served as tribal chairman for two years before stepping down in 2006, said earlier that he decided to run for office once again this year because he wanted to see changes made in the Band’s way of doing business. On Wednesday morning following the election, he said he wishes Diver well and hopes she succeeds in leading the Band in a positive direction over the next four years.
“I encourage her to be more open with our membership,” stated Defoe. “Whatever she and the Reservation Business Committee do is important to us all. Even though I did not win the election, I still want things to be as good as they can be.”
In the race for representative in District I (Cloquet), incumbent Wally Dupuis earned 506 votes to opponent Kelly Diver’s 264. Kevin Dupuis Sr. was victorious in the contest for District 3 (Brookston) representative, with 157 votes to challenger Bryan “Bear” Bosto’s 72.
Fond du Lac Election Judge Lyman Lafave said voter turnout for the election was at 33.97 percent, with 1,190 of the band’s 3,503 eligible members casting votes, which he said is about average for the Fond du Lac Reservation.
Diver, 47, has led the reservation through what is arguably one of its greatest eras of change. Under her leadership, the Band reclaimed more than 8,000 acres of reservation land; added nearly 100 housing units for band members, a new resource management building and drug treatment facility; and paid off a $120 million loan for Black Bear Casino Resort. The band also challenged the city of Duluth over Fond du Luth Casino revenue in 2009, resulting in an ongoing legal battle that is still far from over.
The Reservation Business Committee oversees a $180 million budget, 2,200 employees and businesses that include two casinos, construction, propane and logging companies, and a convenience store.
Christa Lawler and Jana Hollingsworth of Forum Communications contributed to this story.