PEMBROKE — The Lumbee Tribal Council on Thursday approved the tribal chairman’s nominee for tribal administrator, filling a position that had been vacant for two years..
On a 12 to 8 vote, Tony Hunt, a Hoke County commissioner, school administrator and past Tribal Council candidate, was confirmed as the tribe’s top administrator. He immediately takes over the administration of the tribe’s day-to-day operations.
Thursday was the fourth attempt by Chairman Paul Brooks to get a nominee of his choice confirmed by the 21-member council. Hunt is the third nominee, with the other candidates being Gervais Oxendine, a Lumberton businessman, and Steven Hunt, who was recently named CEO of the Lumbee River Electric Membership Corporation.
Hunt was named interim administrator last week by Brooks when not enough council members for a quorum attended a special meeting to consider his confirmation.
Hunt will be paid an annual salary of $96,000, $4,000 less than originally proposed in the contract. The change was made after council members learned that a 2011 ordinance had been approved setting the administrator’s salary between $88,000 and $96,000.
“I look forward to the challenges that come along with this very important role with the tribe,” Hunt said in a statement. “I want to make sure our tribal members continue to receive exemplary customer service and to improve in the areas we need to improve in order to help this government continue to grow.”
The tribe has been without an administrator since 2011. The council did not renew the contract of the last administrator, Rose Marie Lowry-Townsend, after it was learned that former Chairman Purnell Swett had hired her at a higher salary than the 21-member council had agreed upon.
Tribal Speaker Pearlean Revels said the hiring turns a page for the tribe.
“I hope as of today we can go forward,” Revels said. “There have been some issues that have been holding the government back.”
At the recommendation of Councilman Steve Sampson, the council at the last minute approved striking language from Hunt’s contract that would have given Brooks’ sole authority as chairman to raise Hunt’s salary to match any offer of better pay to take a job elsewhere.
The council on Thursday also voted 13 to 7 to override Brooks’ veto of the tribe’s budget. A two-thirds vote of the 21 council members is needed to override a veto, and because only 20 members were present, there was discussion about whether the override was valid. The decision was eventually made that it was.
Councilman McDuffie Cummings, chairman of the council’s Finance Committee, said the budget is comprehensive.
“All of the projects that have been approved for any of the districts are in this $23 million budget,” he told council members.
The council in March approved a $24.9 million budget for the fiscal year that began last October.
In other business, Dr. Ronny Bell made a brief presentation on the Lumbee Rite of Passage project, a collaborative program between the Wake Forest School of Medicine, The University of North Carolina at Pembroke and the Lumbee Tribe.
Bell told the council that the program has two goals — to examine the behavioral health needs and availability of services for Lumbee youths, and to measure the effect of tribally-operated cultural enrichment classes on factors associated with suicide in Lumbee people ages 11 to 18.