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Sixth Term As Seminole Chief Chairman Billie Unopposed

Inside: Candidates, Platforms, Pg 12-13

HOLLYWOOD - James Edward Billie, who has led the Seminole Tribe of Florida down a path of economic prosperity during his first 20 years as Chairman, will continue to lead his people into the millennium.

As the Tribe's chief executive officer since 1979, the statesman, singer, songwriter, alligator wrestler, cattleman, pilot is unopposed for a record sixth term of office as Seminole Tribal Council Chairman.

Among world leaders, only Cuba's Fidel Castro has governed in the top job longer. Among American Indian tribes, only Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians Chief Phillip Martin (first elected in 1979) has been Chairman as long.

When informed he was assured of another term, the Chairman said simply, "Sho naa bish," thanking the members of the Seminole Tribe for their trust.

It is the first time, since the Seminole Tribal Constitution was ratified in 1957, that a candidate for Chairman has been unopposed. Nevertheless, his photo will go on the ballot for the May 10 Seminole Tribal Election. "But, as soon as one person votes for him, he's in," said Wanda Bowers, of the Secretary-Treasurer's office. "I hope he gets to the polls early, so he can save us all a trip."

But, while this year's Tribal Election will lack any campaigning from the colorful Chief Billie, it will feature a full slate of candidates vying for seven elected positions, including President of the Tribal Board of Directors (Seminole Tribe of Florida Inc.) In this race, incumbent Mitchell Cypress is being opposed by Hollywood resident Tony Sanchez Jr. The President also assumes the role of Council Vice-Chairman.

The ballot's biggest surprise, according to Tribal election observers, is the decision of Brighton Board representative Roger Smith not to run for re-election. The popular Smith's retirement has created a wide open field of candidates for his job, including Lorene B. Gopher (Brighton Cultural Education), Sammy Gopher, John Wayne Huff, Jr., Alexander P. Johns, Johnny Jones, Sr., Theresa Nunez, Elbert Snow and (Tribal Health Director) Connie Johns Whidden.

In the other Board contests, David DeHass will go against Incumbent Elton Carl Baxley for Hollywood Representative, while cattleman Paul Bowers Sr. will battle with incumbent Manuel "Mondo" Tiger for the Big Cypress board title.

Agriculturist Clifton L. Billie and Neal Martin Bowers have qualified to run against incumbent David Cypress for the Big Cypress seat on the Tribal Council. Incumbent Brighton Councilman Jack Smith Jr. will have opposition from (Tribal Cultural Director) Louise Gopher, John Wayne Huff Sr., Willie Johns and Reno A. Osceola. Ronnie Doctor will square off with longtime incumbent Max Osceola Jr. for the Hollywood Council seat.

Tribal members must have reached their 18th birthday by Election Day in order to vote. Polls will be open at the Frank Billie Center (Big Cypress), Brighton Education Office and Hollywood Gymnasium from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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