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A change of leadership

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Monday, June 18, 2007

FORT SMITH - Smith's Landing First Nation (SLFN) has elected a new chief.

In a very close vote on June 15, Fred Daniels won the leadership over incumbent Jerry Paulette.

Daniels, who was chief from 2000-2002, collected 56 votes, compared to 51 for Paulette.

"I expected it to be a close vote," Daniels said Saturday morning. "You're taking on an incumbent and they're very hard to beat, and Chief Paulette is a very good person."

Daniels said he plans to involve every band member in developing the First Nation, including Paulette and his vision for the band.

One of the new chief's objectives is to build more housing and infrastructure in Fort Fitzgerald, Alta., about 20-kilometres south of Fort Smith. In a 2000 treaty land entitlement settlement, an SLFN reserve was created in northern Alberta.

Daniels doesn't plan to resign as a Fort Smith town councillor.

If Smith's Landing issues come up at town council, he will call a conflict of interest and leave the room, he explained. "It's as simple as that."

In 2003, Daniels ran unsuccessfully for the mayor's job in Fort Smith.

Paulette, who had been chief since 2002, also served as leader several other times since he was first elected in 1987.

The outgoing chief could not be reached for comment.

The June 15 election also filled the four seats on band council.

The successful candidates are Tony Vermillion, Lorraine MacDonald, Thaidene Paulette and Elizabeth (Liz) Stirret.

There were nine candidates in all for council.

SLFN has about 300 members - including 232 eligible voters.

Daniels thanked his supporters and everyone else who voted in the election, noting it's an important part of the democratic process.

SLFN members mainly live in Fort Smith and Fort Fitzgerald, Alta.