Incumbents Alston Turtle and Selwyn Whiteskunk were reelected Friday to the Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Council during Friday’s election in Towaoc.
Turtle had 155 votes, and Whiteskunk attracted 110 votes to win over the seven other candidates. They will be sworn into office during a ceremony on Nov. 5, and serve three-year terms.
Turtle and Whiteskunk faced seven challengers.
Mark Wing had the third-highest votes with 102. He was followed by Angelita Berry, 99 votes; Conrad Jacket, 73 votes; Kenneth Bancroft, 62 votes; Sandy Summa, 51 votes; Mindy Lopez, 38 votes; and Bradley Hight, 34 votes. Election officials determined four ballots to be spoiled.
The candidates with highest and second-highest vote count earned council seats.
Turtle took a convincing lead during the vote tally conducted by election officials at the community center and broadcast live on tribal television channel.
For the second open council seat, it was a close race between Whiteskunk, Berry and Wing. Whiteskunk pulled ahead as the last ballots were counted.
Polls were open from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Community Center. Pandemic safety protocols were in place. And the usual gathering of community members during the vote tally was canceled as a precaution.
The winning candidates arrived to give speeches at the community center, which were also broadcast live on the tribe’s television channel.
“I thank the voters from the bottom of my heart. I will continue to be voice for tribal members,” said Turtle, who serves as the secretary/treasurer on council.
He said the tribe was working on many fronts, including health care, pandemic safety, education with the new Kwiyagat Community Academy and economic development. He said the tribe is in the process of hiring a new economic development director.
“As a tribe, we can move forward together and be prosperous,” Turtle said. “I will serve the next three years to make the enhancements and changes we need to be prosperous. We heard a lot during the campaigning; now it is time to incorporate that into the government functions to accommodate people’s needs.”
Whiteskunk, who serves as vice chair on the council, also spoke to the people after the votes were counted.
“I liked to thank the Ute Mountain people for their trust in me, and for everyone who came out and supported each candidate that ran for this office,” he said. “It is very important for tribal members to engage, and participate and decide the future of our tribe. Community input is critical for our tribe’s existence.”
Whiteskunk had praise for Turtle’s leadership.
“We have served on council together the last few years. Alston’s heart is set on the Ute Mountain Tribe and its people,” he said. “I commend his effort as a young, up-and-coming tribal council representative. He has done an excellent job for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe.”
Turtle grew up in Towaoc and has a background in business and customer service. After working in the hotel industry in Albuquerque for many years, he moved back home five years ago and previously worked for the tribe as a utility technician.
Whiteskunk has a long leadership background with the tribe and has worked for the tribe’s natural resources department and as a health administrator. He previously served as tribal chairman, and this will be his fourth term on the Tribal Council.
Ute Mountain Election Board Chairperson Flaydina Knight thanked the voters for participating, and praised election staff and volunteers for their efforts.