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Status quo is gone

Tony SanchezAs you read these words, our new Seminole administration – Board and Council – are approaching 120 days of service to our Seminole Tribal members. Though that is a very short time, we have learned a lot about how the Tribe runs, its infrastructure, programs and policies.


Most importantly we have learned we can’t accept the status quo.


The status quo that many in our Tribe are familiar with has led us into critical problem situations and created ways of doing business that we cannot allow to continue. We, the leaders, have a responsibility to implement policies and procedures that will benefit all Tribal members, not just certain individuals. Making these changes is going to ruffle some feathers, but that is what we were put in these positions to do.


An example from my own personal life has opened my eyes. I wanted a new home and I went to Seminole Housing. But, right away I wasn’t getting any real answers to my questions. The pricing didn’t seem right. I never realized a sense of comfort dealing with Housing. I didn’t feel I was going to be treated fairly. I lacked the confidence to leave it in their hands, so I took it away from Housing and will act as my own general contractor. Now this was not done to cut corners. I plan to live there, and I don’t want it to fall down around me! I just felt it was necessary to protect myself.


The house will be built to code. I’ll hire the architect and make sure the bids come in compared to the bid documents. I’m arranging my own financing. If I’m the guinea pig, if things go wrong, well that’s my fault. But the point is, as a Tribal member, I had no sense of any real support from the current Housing administration. I would have thought they should be there to provide direction and other valuable services regarding housing matters.


It led me to wonder, “What’s been going on?”


Some of our Tribal programs have existed for years and years, operating in a status quo that really does not seem to benefit the Tribal members. I mean, we could always just sit back and hope that things take care of themselves. Hoping without action – that would be the easy way out. That is not, however, the mandate handed to us by voters four months ago. At the very least we want a situation where Tribal members are paying a fair price and getting a quality product. We need to be very responsible in that we won’t take advantage of our Tribal members but listen to them and respond in ways that will help instead of confuse.


And that is why we are going to be intensely involved in looking at just how these departments are functioning. This is not change for the sake of change. And I don’t mean to shine the spotlight on just Housing – I am only using that department as an example of many situations that need fixing within our Tribe.


We will be looking at each and every department of the Tribe to make sure they are fulfilling each goal and doing it at an efficient level. For example, we are looking at Seminole Tribe of Florida, Inc. Construction with the same light. Here you have a lot of expense, large salaries, but no work. That doesn’t make sense. I don’t want to carry that kind of administrative cost. I want to find a partner that can take on some of this expense, share the work and get the jobs. I think there is an opportunity to take Board Construction and provide a level of service and goods that should have been in place and provided all along.


It is just one business opportunity, but we should exploit that to its fullest benefit for the Tribe and all Tribal members and not just a single individual.


While my primary responsibility as Tribal President is to stimulate economic development for the Seminole Tribe, I still have the additional responsibility of wearing another hat as the Vice Chairman of the Tribal Council. So, my focus encompasses a wide range of issues that I must deal with on a daily basis. I am fortunate to be a part of, and witness to, how both governing bodies are working.


I want every Tribal member to take comfort in knowing that both Board and Council are putting in the quality time to address some very tough social and economic issues. God bless the Seminole Tribe and its members.


– Tony Sanchez Jr. is President of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Inc.

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