Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The New Tribal Council

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media is an article in The Day newspaper on yesterday's change in leadership of the Mohegan Tribal Council.

Mohegan tribe has a new leader
Malerba is first woman to serve as chair of tribal government
By Brian Hallenbeck
The Day
October 6, 2009

Mohegan - She could describe herself as a feminist, the embodiment of a woman's right to achieve. But she'd rather put it another way.

”I'm an 'equalist,' “ Lynn Malerba said Monday after the nine-member Mohegan Tribal Council elected her chairwoman, making her the first woman to lead a tribe whose centuries-long history features the contributions of strong women.

”I am absolutely thrilled … and proud to be the first female chair of this tribe,” she said. “It's a dream come true.”

The 56-year-old Malerba, vice chairwoman of the tribe since 2005, had been expected to ascend to the council's top spot after winning the most votes in tribe-wide balloting for five council seats this summer. Bruce “Two Dogs” Bozsum, the chairman since 2005, finished second in the voting and was elected vice chairman by the council Monday.

Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council members congratulated Malerba on her election, saying, in a statement, “We look forward to our continuing relationship with the Mohegan tribe.”

Malerba invoked the memory and example of Gladys Tantaquidgeon and other Mohegan women, including her own mother, Loretta Roberge, a tribal councilor for 30 years; her great aunt, Loretta F. Schultz, and Schultz's daughters; Katy Strickland, who died last week; and Virginia Damon.

”We must all stand in love for the tribe,” Malerba said, quoting Tantaquidgeon, the much-accomplished medicine woman who died in 2005 at the age of 106.

”I'm thankful to the men, too,” Malerba said. “We have been well regarded by men.”

Earlier Monday, Malerba, Bozsum and the other councilors elected in August - incumbents William Quidgeon and James Gessner and newcomer Kathy Regan-Pyne - were sworn in during a private ceremony in the Mohegan Church. Bob Soper Sr., chairman of the tribe's council of elders, administered the oath.

Malerba called the election outcome “a real strong vote of confidence” in the council, which has presided amid “unprecedented economic and legislative challenges.” She said she and Bozsum have been “a great team” and would continue to share responsibilities.

The new chairwoman worked as director and later executive director of the tribe's Health and Human Services Department from 1997 to 2005, and before that spent 21 years at Lawrence & Memorial Hospital, where she continues to serve as a director. She has a master's degree in public administration from the University of Connecticut.

Malerba acknowledged that more challenges lie ahead, given the economy's continued effect on gaming in general and Mohegan Sun, the tribe's casino, in particular.

”We study the financials daily,” she said, with an eye toward making judgments based on whether ventures return value to the tribal community. She said the tribe is prepared to introduce table games at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, the racetrack casino it owns in Pennsylvania, where the legislature is poised to approve the expansion of gambling.

The tribe is also monitoring the situation in Massachusetts, where it has proposed building a resort casino in Palmer if the legislature legalizes casinos. Closer to home, Malerba said no decisions have yet been made regarding Project Horizon, the Mohegan Sun expansion project suspended a year ago, or the resumption of construction on the tribe's government building/community center on Crow Hill. That project was halted early this year.

”We need to have the economy rebound and that hasn't happened yet,” she said, adding, “If the recession has taught us anything, it's that we need to diversify (beyond gaming).”

She declined to say what other projects the tribe might pursue.

Also Monday, the council elected Thayne Hutchins Jr. treasurer. Hutchins succeeds Quidgeon, who sought to relinquish the office while continuing to serve as a councilor. Other officers include Allison D. Johnson, recording secretary; Gessner, corresponding secretary; and former Chairman Mark Brown, ambassador. Cheryl Todd also serves as a councilor.

Regan-Pyne, the lone new face on the council, has been the tribe's career development manager. Previously, she worked in the insurance industry, holding management positions at Lincoln Financial Group and Cigna Property & Casualty. She has been elected to the Connecticut Women's Basketball Hall of Fame and the Eastern Connecticut State University Athletic Hall of Fame. After college, she played professional basketball in Europe.