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Brighton dedicates new homes at ribbon cutting

From left to right, Brighton Board Rep. Helene Buster, Brighton Councilman Larry Howard, Susannah Servere, President Mitchell Cypress and members of the Baker family react when the ribbon is cut. (Photo Damon Scott)

BRIGHTON – The Seminole Tribe held a ribbon cutting ceremony Sept. 2 on the Brighton Reservation to usher in a new residential development consisting of dozens of new homes.

When fully completed, the Flowing Well project will consist of 30 single-family homes on one-acre lots and 40 rental homes on quarter-acre lots. At the time of the ribbon cutting, about 15 homes were still available for purchase and some tribal members received keys to their new homes. Tribal Community Development (TCD) has more phases of homebuilding in the pipeline as well.

Construction of the homes and the infrastructure took place throughout the pandemic, which came with staffing and supply challenges, according to Derek Koger, the executive director of TCD. Koger said Tribal Council set a goal for TCD about two and a half years ago to build 400 homes on different reservations within five years.

“Today we’re at 330 homes tribalwide in a little under three years,” Koger said at the ribbon-cutting event.

In the past several years, new homes have been built on the Brighton, Hollywood, Big Cypress, Immokalee and Lakeland reservations with more to come.

“As you can see we’ve done a lot, not just here in Brighton. This is a small step in the many steps of a journey that we still have to accomplish,” Chairman Marcellus W. Osceola Jr. said, calling the new homes a milestone for the tribe.

Chairman Osceola said that when he was elected in 2017, the need for tribal housing was “just overwhelming.” He said there were tribal members from every reservation waiting for homes.

“Today there are 4,351 tribal members with us and at some point they will want to come home,” Chairman Osceola said. “When they see what we’re building today, they’ll probably want to come home and stay. That’s what I’m looking forward to – that they all come home and raise their families with us, amongst us, because we’re all family.”

Brighton Councilman Larry Howard and Brighton Board Rep. Helene Buster noted that the residential development, located on Flowing Well Road just northwest of the Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School (PECS), used to be an area of orange groves and before that, woods.

“I’ve been around here all my life and there’s a lot of transformation going on here,” Rep. Buster said. “It’s a good change for our people. We need to be grateful for what we have here. For us, the older ones, when we needed a home, we had chickees.”

Councilman Howard recognized the tribe’s elected officials including former Brighton Councilman Andrew J. Bowers Jr., who was at the event, for their efforts to make the project a reality. Bowers was in office, for example, when initial plans were made to purchase the property.

“Today we can provide what our tribal members need to come back to our reservations, to stay and raise their kids to understand their culture within our own community,” Rep. Howard said.

Big Cypress Board Rep. Mariann Billie reminisced about weekends on the Brighton Reservation when she was growing up.

“Good luck with your homes. I can’t wait to see you turning your keys and walking in and moving in,” she said.

The new homes are the latest in a slew of new development on the reservation. A new hotel and casino is in the works, as well as a new Brighton Trading Post. In addition, ground was broken in May on new buildings that will house the PECS immersion program, including a separate complex that will host a new Boys & Girls Club, library and community cultural center.

Members of four families join tribal employees and tribal leadership at the Flowing Well residential development’s ribbon cutting ceremony Sept. 2. The families received keys to their new homes at the event. (Photo Damon Scott)
Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School principal Tracy Downing (middle, back) and Michele Thomas (right, back) are joined by members of the PECS student council during the Pledge of Allegiance. From left to right are Ciani Smith, Hayden Nunez and Kreed Snow. (Photo Damon Scott)
Tribal leadership hopes the new homes will entice tribal members to live on the reservation. (Photo Damon Scott)
The new homes feature different size and layout options. (Photo Damon Scott)
Brighton Councilman Larry Howard addresses those who came to the ribbon cutting ceremony. (Photo Damon Scott)
Tribal members and families as well as tribal employees attend the event. (Photo Damon Scott)
Chairman Marcellus W. Osceola Jr. said the homes represents a milestone for the tribe. (Photo Damon Scott)
Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at