PEMBROKE — The Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina has a new full-time tribal administrator to oversee daily operations of the tribal government.
Freda Porter, Tribal Chairman Harvey Godwin Jr.’s choice for the job, was overwhelmingly confirmed Thursday by the 21-member Tribal Council by a vote of 16-3. The administrator is the only position in the tribal government that the chairman can’t fill without the council’s approval.
The approval of Porter is contingent on her and Godwin agreeing to some revisions in the proposed contract that council members hashed out Thursday during a lengthy closed session. The major revision concerned salary, according to Councilman Bobby Oxendine, the council’s speaker.
Oxendine declined to give specifics of the revised contract, noting that Porter and Godwin have not yet reviewed and approved the document. He did say, however, that the salary is “closer” to the $90,000 annual salary provided in the tribal budget for the position than it is to Godwin’s salary request of $120,000.
Godwin appeared to be comfortable with the contract revisions and not concerned with the changes imposed by the council.
“I’m very satisfied,” he told The Robesonian immediately after Thursday’s meeting. “Tomorrow we will have a new tribal administrator.”
Thursday was Godwin’s second attempt to get Porter confirmed for the position. The council on Aug. 16 by a vote of 12-6 rejected the chairman’s recommendation.
Just before his first attempt to get Porter confirmed as tribal administrator, Godwin made her tribal director, a position that was created for her and she has held since. The tribal director manages tribal programs and budgets and reports to the tribal administrator.
Porter is the president and CEO of Pembroke-based Porter Scientific Inc., which provides environmental consulting services, research and support to clients, including the United States Departments of Defense and Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency. She holds a doctorate in Applied Mathematics from Duke University, a master of science in Applied Mathematics from North Carolina State University, and a bachelor’s in Mathematics from The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
Porter thanked the council for confirming her as the tribe’s administrator and said that there are a number of projects now under way that will benefit the tribe.
“I am glad to be moving past this confirmation process,” she said. “We have a lot of momentum and a lot of great projects now under way. We need to move on.”
Until mid-August 2016, Dock Locklear, a former director of the Robeson County Board of Elections, had served as interim tribal administrator. His departure from the position was expected because he had been approved by the council to serve as administrator for only six months.
Oxendine expressed his satisfaction in Porter being confirmed the new administrator.
“She has done an excellent job up to this point,” he said. “… I think she will continue to work to benefit the tribe.”
Eric Locklear, a self-proclaimed community activist and frequent critic of the government, stood before the council and argued against Porter’s confirmation. He told the council that Porter has no experience managing tribal government.
Locklear also spoke out strongly against Porter being paid a higher salary than the $90,000 the council put in the tribal budget to fund the position. He compared the salary she would receive with no experience in tribal government to that of Lumberton City Manager Wayne Horne and Ricky Harris, Robeson County’s manager.
According to Locklear, Horne has 41 years of government management experience, earns $120,000 a year, oversees 450 employees, and administers a $90 million budget. Harris is paid $133,000 a year, oversees 1,100 employees, and administers a budget of $157 million.
Porter would oversee only 100 employees and administer a $14 million budget.
In other business, the council on Thursday:
— Elected Councilman Lesaundri Hunt as the council’s parlimentarian. He replaces Councilman Shelley Strickland in the position.
— Passed a resolution changing the number of members serving on a standing council committee from a low of three and a high of five to a low of three and a high of seven.
— Referred a budget amendment that would have increased spending for projects at the Lumbee Cultural Center back to the Finance Committee. The action was taken because council members previously agreed not to approve funding for any project at the Cultural Center until a Cultural Planning Committee is formed to plan and manage projects and programs at the center.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.