Cheryl Andrews-Maltais will return for a third term as chairman of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), defeating former three-time chairman Donald Widdiss by a comfortable margin in the tribal election Sunday.
A total of 190 ballots were cast at the tribal headquarters in Aquinnah (about 20 per cent of all eligible voters), including 115 for Ms. Andrews-Maltais and 67 for Mr. Widdiss. Current chairman Tobias Vanderhoop, who was not seeking reelection, received five votes.
Speaking to the Gazette by phone on Sunday evening, Ms. Andrews-Maltais said she planned to continue working to support the tribal community in light of uncertainty surrounding future federal and state funding.
“We have the responsibility to take care of the business interests as well as the health and well being of our community,” she said, noting the importance of partnering with Island towns and services to pursue funding opportunities.
She said she will encourage participation in both tribal government and the Aquinnah community in the years ahead. “It’s something that we have kind of lost sight of,” she said. “You get wrapped up in the day-to-day. And taking time to sit back and smell the roses and enjoy more time with the community, that’s been a challenge.”
Ms. Andrews-Maltais served two previous terms as chairman, from 2008 to 2013. Three years ago she was defeated by Tobias Vanderhoop. Recently she has worked as a senior advisor to the assistant secretary of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C. She said her work in federal government has kept her in touch with the tribal leadership in Aquinnah, including Mr. Vanderhoop, who she said offered his warm congratulations on Sunday.
Mr. Widdiss, whose three previous terms as chairman included from 1987 to 1991 after the tribe gained federal recognition, was a late-comer to the race this year. He could not be immediately reached for comment following the election.
The following candidates were also elected to three-year terms: Eleanor Hebert, secretary (145 votes); Naomi Carney and Kristina Hook, tribal council (105 and 69 votes respectively); and Adriana Ignacio and Berta Welch, Aquinnah Cultural Center board of directors (137 and 142 votes respectively).
An official swearing-in ceremony for all new officers is scheduled for Jan. 7.
Tribal government proceedings, including elections, are not open to the public.