Cherokees get new Deputy Chief

Sunday, July 27th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Tahlequah - Cherokee Nation voters picked Joe Grayson Jr. as deputy chief in a run-off election.

Grayson picked up 4,769 votes, or 68%, Saturday to beat out Cherokee County banker and businessman Gary D. Chapman, who had 2,210 votes, or 32%, according to figures from the Cherokee Nation Election Commission.

"I'm very happy -- this is the second best day of my life," Grayson said. He said the day he married his wife, Gwen, was the best day.

Grayson, who recently retired from the Indian Health Service, said his main emphasis will be on preserving the language and culture, as well as the ancient arts.

Chapman told volunteers at his watch party that they worked hard and his downfall had been with the absentee vote, which he lost soundly.

He described the absentee votes as mostly Cherokees living in other states who are unaware of what is going on inside the Cherokee Nation.

"But I got the community people -- I got the Cherokee people -- I got that vote," Chapman told supporters.

Don Garvin of Muskogee retained his council seat in the Three Rivers District in the election.

Garvin, a retired math teacher, defeated political newcomer Calvin Rock, a supervisor at Georgia Pacific, 658 to 428, or 61% to 39%, according to the Election Commission.

Grayson and Garvin ran on Principal Chief Chad Smith's slate.

Smith won the May 24 general election, defeating former Chief Joe Byrd, Robin Mayes and L.S. Fields.

Garvin's win means Smith will have seven councilors who ran on his slate. The other eight councilors will be able to pass legislation on their own, but may fall short of the 10 councilors necessary to override a veto from Smith.

Cherokee voters also approved a new Cherokee Constitution hammered out in a 1999 constitutional convention.

Under the newly passed constitution, the head marshal and the attorney general will be appointed, which means people serving in those positions have to be confirmed by the tribal council. Their terms cannot run concurrent with the chief's.

The constitution also calls for the Judicial Appeals Tribunal of the Cherokee Nation, the tribe's highest court, to be renamed the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court. It calls for five justices instead of three, who will serve 10-year terms instead of six years.

There will be two additional council seats elected by Cherokees living outside the boundaries of the Cherokee Nation. That means absentee voters will have two representatives on the council.

And a Cherokee convicted of a felony can now be chief if his criminal record is expunged, said Cherokee Nation spokesman Mike Miller.

The Election Commission must approve the results before they are final.