Catalina Alvarez and Robert McGhee: What I Wish I Knew Before I Took Office (Q&A)

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Native Nations Institute
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Tribal leaders Catalina Alvarez (Pascua Yaqui Tribe) and Robert McGhee (Poarch Band of Creek Indians) field questions from seminar participants on an array of topics ranging from codes of ethics to creating mechanisms for transparent governance.

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Citation

Alvarez, Catalina. "What I Wish I Knew Before I Took Office (Q&A)." Emerging Leaders seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. October 10, 2012. Q&A session.

McGhee, Robert. "What I Wish I Knew Before I Took Office (Q&A)." Emerging Leaders seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. October 10, 2012. Q&A session.

Audience member:

"Robert, coming from a similar small tribe and situations I can relate a lot to what you brought up as far as what you're dealing with. I just had a question as far as the transparency. I agree with that and I know that it's...I'm sure it's a work in progress. What has worked and what hasn't as far as are there limitations as far as how transparent each governmental entity is for tribal members and do you get a lot of backlash when they ask for a document or want to see something that they're just not entitled to?"

Robert McGhee:

"They're entitled to every document that we have, able to see [them] as long as it's not employee related, if it's not involving certain employees or certain individual members themselves. What we do is...and one of the things, we do an annual report. We put money aside every year, we publish a book and the book goes out to every tribal member, it's talking about our current financial status and we put a letter in there asking them to keep it amongst themselves and this is for you and your household. And then two days before it goes out, well, about a week before it goes out we actually have a large community meeting that goes over the annual report and explains it page by page. So we go through all the funding issues, we go through "˜this is where all the money went, this is what's left, this is what we're we agree...' We'll tell them, "˜We wanted to build a capital reserve account to protect future assets and this is how much we're putting in there.' So that's the best way we handle it and if we have any documents that we're concerned, because we do have council members who do like to talk and they're social people. We have one council member, all he does, and this is not to be disrespectful but he's always at the funerals and someone who's going into the hospital, which I respect. But we tell him and it's like, "˜You need to tell them that you're coming on behalf of all of us because we can't all go to...' But he loves to talk and I don't think he means it disrespectfully, I really don't, but he just loves...so now we take any information that is valuable at the council meeting, if we want to have a private discussion, I actually take it back up from all the...they'll agree to me, 'You can have...I don't want mine.' Because if they have it in their hand they're more apt to share it and give it away and we'll be the first ones to say, "˜I don't want mine, you take mine back,' "˜cause then we'll just collect all the information from the tribal council, we'll have it destroyed and it's easier that way on some regards because it can be sensitive topics that they really shouldn't be discussing so we do take up some of those things. But the transparency is, it's difficult but it's a double-edged sword."

Audience member:

"But more positive than negative as far as being open to the community and there's no...because leaving that expectation or leaving people to their own ideas or what's going on behind closed doors. You're kind of alleviating that to an extent?"

Robert McGhee:

"I think so. They have the opportunity...every council member, we have...every council meeting, we have two a month, what we've done now though is our first council meeting is actually business and the second council meeting we have every director rotate in every entity come in and give financial updates and updates of who's been hired, who's been...like how many employees we have and things like that so that helps a little bit. If we can alleviate where they don't have to ask us a question or they don't have to...then we'll try to do it."

Audience member:

"Thank you. And just a final question for the two of you, as far as going forward as far as governance, economic development, sitting, being chairs and different committees, how important is it for leaders to be educated and be able to provide that additional information that if you just...all you know is the rez, all you know is that immediate community, you haven't lived off, you haven't experienced any other let's say tribal entities or network, how important is that to be able to move forward for the futures to come?"

Catalina Alvarez:

"Yeah, I think that's a...you have to be...where nowadays, we're not this small reservation, we're not this small tribe. We're running with a lot of and dealing with a lot of millions of dollars and you need educated people that are going to be making those right decisions for the tribe. A lot of times we would have...you still have those mindsets of the older generation that feel that they don't need those kind of people or sometimes they're like in his case as well -- I'm going to pick on Marcelino [Flores] over there -- we have some people that are very educated and that know a whole lot and we have a tendency not to...I think we have to have a balance of where we get the educated people but also having the previous council, the old founders of the tribe also respect and embrace the knowledge that he does bring because I know that a lot of times like I've talked to Herminia [Frias], at least have the sense that if you don't know where you're at as a council to know and to ask that you need to find the right people for those positions because otherwise, like with us, I know I've told some of the council, we are still in the process of trying to get back the gaming board, because a lot of us feel we are not capable of running a gaming institution by any means and that's where it becomes difficult, that you have a council that still wants to be in charge of everything. And is it beneficial for us? Maybe it was and maybe it wasn't. We were burned also with the gaming board and finding the right people because sometimes you get burned by those same individuals on the gaming board. There's a balance that you have to find educated people, also people that are practical in knowing what needs to be done."

Robert McGhee:

"I think the key is if you're not...if they don't have the say...we educate as much as we can across all areas. It doesn't necessarily have to be college educated. It could be business education, tribal law, business literacy. We've actually had people just come in even to the council and teach debits and credits so they can have a better understanding if tribal gaming...because there was a distrust issue too amongst...you have a board over here and we have a top management staff and they're presenting this and it's overwhelming what they're presenting to you. And now though they have to go through it step by step by step and it's an easier process but I encourage if you can put any type of, in place, training and education at your council level, please do, I would recommend that you do it. But also do it for...what we've just started doing for all of our directors and program directors and executive directors is we have sent them through intensive leadership training and they have really...they said that was the best thing that the council has ever done. We felt that they were a part of the organization, that we were listening to them and now they're going to offer it, we're going to offer it to even all the employees because it wasn't fair we felt when I said, "˜we went through this,' and let... It's called 'Lead by Greatness.' We went through this training and it wasn't really fair for us to have the training and not the people who run our programs. And so we've actually...that just started this past year and they're enjoying it and now it's getting down to all the employees. And all the boards and committees like I pointed out before, they're all...all tribal members have the opportunity to serve on those but they have to submit an application and the application actually has to say, "˜Why do you want to serve on this board?' If it's the Cultural Authority, "˜Why do you want to serve here? Is it because you have something to give or do you just want to learn more? Why do you want to serve on PCI Gaming?' Because we realize, like she said, we don't have the expertise to run all of these economic development properties that we have. But you've got to make sure that your job descriptions and you've got to make sure that your...are strong job descriptions and things that get people in the right places to do that for you. We have mentoring programs for our tribal members so they can serve under leadership positions, to learn that way."

Audience member:

"This is in regards to how you deal with or listen to tribal members. There's kind of a two-part question that I heard and I don't know what your responses are, maybe your suggestions on how. The first thing here is congratulations and I think we all know it's a blessing in disguise to be an elected official. So how do you kind of keep a happy about hearing that, "˜Congratulations, you're on council.' And then the second part seems to be, "˜Well, I think you guys should be doing this or you need to do that and I voted you in.' And how do you listen to the community, how do you respond to those questions?"

Catalina Alvarez:

"I'm not sure, like, how do you...the first one that you said, that people just congratulate you and still smile after you know what you got yourself into? Yeah. You have to at least...you're always going to be in that position I think either way, no matter where you're at. We all put up a front even though we're not...maybe we're not happy inside but at least we...we'll just...we portray a different image by saying we're fine and we're good and everything, but I think when tribal members come and expect things of you and are asking you to do things differently, usually when I get asked a lot of things and mostly complaints of things are not doing or I was left out of the process, before I would normally, being a first-year council [member] I would automatically just get it and run with it and not really hear the other side of the story. Now, usually I would ask them, "˜Well, what would you do in these positions? Give me some feedback on what it is that you want accomplished and we'll see what we can do,' but I'm not going to...I always tell them, "˜I'm not going to promise you that it can be done because of course I'm only one voice of other 11.' So it's very important for the community to know that it might not happen and it's okay to tell a community member no. But you've got to watch out that you don't say 'no' too close to elections! [Laughter]"

Robert McGhee:

"One thing she did say was right on that it is okay to tell a community member 'no.' But what happened is that I think the way I handle it is...I wanted to serve. I've wanted to serve as a council member since I was a child. That was...I wanted to come back and do that. I think now though it's when...when someone looks at you, "˜Well, I want this,' I'm like, "˜Well, you tell...why, why do you want that? Does it benefit just you, is it benefiting the family or does it benefit all of us as a whole?' Because I'll let them know in a heartbeat that if that program costs $2 million to fix or a million dollars to fix, you're taking away $2 million or something from another program that we need to look at. So it's almost, you provide me the solution. If that's a problem then, okay, how do we fix it? I think if you throw it back on them that way, because sometimes they have a tendency to put you here and they remind you that, "˜Oh, you think you're up here?' Well, I throw it back down on them and it's like, "˜No, I'm here with you and I do not know how to fix that problem. So how do we fix that problem together? Or why don't you come to a meeting and present solutions.' And they actually...some of them like that because then it gives them...they're involved again and they can make those...be a part of the decision-making process or at least come up with some great ideas that we actually have considered and moved forward with. I'm with nine people but you have 3,000 other people out there, they have some great ideas and I think if you take the opportunity just to challenge them though to say, "˜Well, why do you want that and does it benefit everybody? Because our job as nine is to benefit everyone and it takes a majority first to support it. And have you talked to the other nine? And if the other nine believe in it then that's actually something we could probably do.'"

Audience member:

"My question or thing is when I got in office I ran for chairwoman last term and I didn't make it but I had all these ideas and now that I'm here, how...because a lot of people aren't educated as...when they get on council. They finished high school but they did other things and there was no really like ethical issues that occur, understanding and following policy and procedure within the business frame and then the constitutional issues. How do we follow our constitution yet do our ordinances and all those? But my main thing, my main question is -- and you said you go to, you have training and stuff like that -- is the ethical issue is that when we know there's a relative, a friend, somebody that we have a conflict with we're not really up front to say, "˜I'm not going to be in this discussion, I'm going to step away.' How do you get those values across to your council members so that there is transparency, because the people out there know who's related to who and who's friends with who and all that stuff."

Robert McGhee:

"I know that sometimes what we have to do is you have to remind council members that there is actually a possible conflict and impropriety, there's a...what's the terms that actually gets...an appearance of an impropriety. So as long as we feel that there's an appearance, we will actually let the other council member know. We challenge, it's like, "˜I don't know if you should really be involved in this. You may not know this but this actually impacts so and so,' and we provide them the relation. We tell them the relationship. So maybe some of them do know it but they just needed someone to challenge them to say, "˜I think it's best that you step out, do we all agree that so and so needs to step out,' and they do. What happens is the majority of them will do, once you've just shown where the relationship is and usually you're doing it because of...and don't do it attack-tive. You do it, say, "˜I think...isn't so-and-so in that program or isn't...did so-and-so apply for that job, isn't that your sister-in-law...,' because you are related but there are so many things sometimes you do get confused on even what is a nepotism. Is sister-in-law, is my aunt, is my sister? We know some of them are but then you have, well, your grandparents but they take care of that child. So there could be the possibility of that. So I think if you point it out, we've done that in the past, we just did it or you have your legal department if they're in the room, too. Our legal department's always with us. We'll lean over and say, "˜I think there's a...' and we'll, "˜Hey, that's why that person gets paid the big bucks, you need to go tell that there's an appearance here and maybe it's best to not be...you can be here and maybe just not be a part of the decision.'"

Catalina Alvarez:

"For us, I think the first time that I got into council we actually passed an ethical ordinance and I believe with the new council you're given all the ordinances that have like a fiscal ordinance and the ethical ordinance so you can go back and read them. And it's a way also to challenge, for council to hold each other accountable. That's kind of worked a little bit. I laugh because Herminia used to be our chairwoman the first time that I got into council and of course there was a...it was used against her. She brought the issue into us as ethical ordinance and it's just...the council saw it as a way, "˜Okay, this is how we're going to use it against her now.' But it in essence the...why we decided to do an ethical ordinance was really just to hold each other accountable and making sure that the community knows that we are not going to be in those situations where nepotism does occur and that we're all on the same playing field."

Audience member:

"This question kind of piggy backs off of the last question, but as elected officials and members of council how are you able to effective work against factionalism in council? I think that in a lot of tribal communities relationships ties, family ties run really deep. And so in spite of council and elected officials assuming integrity in their positions, they're always subject to sway. And I think that you see that in a lot of council where many times members will kind of group together on certain decisions and push legislation, ordinance or policy a certain direction when maybe it's kind of not based on the content but more on maybe who they're talking to and who they're being influenced by. As leaders, how are you able to combat that or at least address it within your councils and your communities?"

Robert McGhee:

"I've pictured...I've painted this like perfect council up here and we are not...by no means perfect. We do have our issues but with 3,000 there's definitely a difference between 3,000 members and say a 10,000 member tribe where factions can change elections. There's no doubt. One of the things that we have done is...it's funny, when we know certain people are getting together on a vote, we'll be like, "˜Well, I really don't care.' We won't be a part of it because it depends on what the issue is. If it's something about, oh, we're going to...it's like if we want to spend money here for this program, well, if I don't have a say or a personal attachment to it or something like that, we'll be like...but they've worked up this whole, us five support it or..."˜Well, have at it and if it works that's great and if it fails, I'll be the first one to let you know that failed,' but I won't be...but we won't do it...we don't air it to the rest of them. I think that if it comes to stuff that is...we have a strong and hopefully a lot of you do have an ethics code and the ethics code was the hardest thing to get passed. That was the hardest. It went to a vote five different times over a year because...and we kept...when we would challenge our tribal council members at the table, "˜Why are you not supporting the ethics code? Are you unethical?' But what happened was even our general council members who are looking, who are at these meetings and seeing so and so quit, he's not or she's not supporting the ethics code, not supporting the ethics code. It all came about though, the reason that individual was not supporting because the appearance of the impropriety. He was so scared of that word because of like you said factions or your council member's brother on another side of the family would be like, "˜Well, hey, he was a part of that decision that...' And so there's an appearance there and he was terrified of that "˜cause he was involved in business himself. And so we were like...so we made it stronger where the appearance, we gave it a little bit more teeth into that document to help him support it. But I think when it just comes to the factions I would...we don't have strong factions, we know that board and committee...it's funny it's only on board and committee appointments because they want Johnny in that position and they'll go meet and we'll say, "˜Well, which ones did you guys...who do you think you're going to choose today.' "˜No, we didn't do that yet.' Call them out on it. We do. But we've got a pretty good close relationship because we've spent so much time together in retreats and workshops and I do not...we do not have a problem calling each other out and one of the things that we had learned from one of these retreats that we went to, they pretty much told us, "˜Call them out. If they are not being the leader that they're supposed to be or if they're not supporting something...say it. Why are you not supporting this initiative? I need an answer.' And we couldn't have them flip-flop anymore either, that was the other thing too. We'd be in a workshop and we'd go around and just do a roll call. It was like, "˜You support it, you support it, you...' and then we'd get to a meeting and, "˜I don't support that.' Made us look like...that only happened a few times. So then we had another leadership, together, Kumbaya saying, "˜I get angry when you do that.' It was almost like a social therapy session. "˜I get angry when you do this. That's not appropriate "˜cause you're giving me your word and all that I feel that you have is your word. That's what makes you a credible person to me is your word and your actions and your actions are going against your words.' So now they actually will tell us, "˜Okay, I'm just going to be honest. I'm not supporting that.' Or if they're about to flip, because they've done it, we'll have another workshop, "˜I want to change my vote.' "˜What? Why?' And then I said, "˜Well, you told us before that from now on you're going to stick to your vote or stick to your decision,' and I called him out. He's like, "˜Yes, but I did tell you that if I changed I would let you know beforehand.' I'm like, "˜You've got me, you're right.' And he changed. He went in that council meeting and his vote changed and I'm like, "˜Well, at least you let me know beforehand.' I was leaning over to another council member, it was like, "˜We lost that one.'"

Catalina Alvarez:

"I think we're still trying to figure that out. You're always going to have I think, at least since I've been in council we have not had like this kind of council that can just sit down and talk, but we always had those kind of factions and we know that they're, sometimes they're influenced. The last...we haven't, this council since it's barely starting, we haven't gotten to that point but the previous council, we knew something was up and the committee knew what was going on and council members would pull in of course all their family so you were kind of pressured to vote in that direction. One of the things that took years and it still has been an issue was like that in the [Adam] Walsh Act, I couldn't believe how difficult it was for council to say that we want to first have the same kind of stuff...that we were going to opt into it and then where we were going to put our note...to notify the community, in which methods. It became so...I'm not even sure, well, I'm assuming that a lot of...in council you would have a sexual pedophile as a family member, that's the only reason why I thought that they could...they thought that I thought that they would be so hesitant in securing our community, but not until we actually had a switch in council that that...we were able to figure out where we were going to post the sexual pedophiles and what kind of notice was going to be given out to the community. But I think a lot of times that [faction], it's always going to exist because we're a tribe of 16,000 or 17,000 and we're always going to have that [faction]. We have council members that are related to each other and you know that they're going to pass ordinances and policies that are going to benefit their families or friends and it's very difficult to find out, at least for us right now. We're still....we're in the stage of trying to figure out how we can...how to resolve that."

Audience member:

"Just a couple of questions here. I'm busy scribbling things down. In today's world of course we live...we all live in two worlds and that is we live in America but at the same time we live within our tribal nations. And quite often, we have a clash in cultures and cultural values and we need somewhat to reconcile some of the things that we do. And was mentioned earlier the idea of nepotism. In the white world of course, that's a no-no. You don't do that, that's unethical behavior. At the same time, as a tribal member, we're taught form a very early age that our responsibility is to our family. Our responsibility is to our relatives, our responsibility is to our community. That's where our citizenship is, that's where our allegiance and where we should be focused. And we also understand that when someone close to you, a relative or whatever, comes for your assistance, you are not supposed to refuse because they're the ones who are going to support you when the chips are down, when you have a tragedy, when you have a sorrow, when you have a great need, you depend upon your family, yet and this job as tribal council is going to be gone in four years, but you still have to face that family member. And that's a difficult thing because you want the betterment of your nation, but at the same time when you're close relatives or clan members, clan fathers, whatever it is comes to you and needs something, how do you reconcile that? I know that's a challenge, "˜cause we have to keep our cultural values alive but we still have to work and thrive in the modern day era. So that's one of the things I think that has to be reconciled.

Another is with our traditional ways as you've mentioned earlier, to call them out. I think from a traditional mindset we're taught not to do that "˜cause we choose avoidance over confrontation whenever we can. And when we have a conflict with somebody, that's when we give direct eye contact, that's when we have that confrontation with them and we go full force. But we don't like to do that but rather we avoid confrontation whenever we can. If that means going on the other side of the street or not returning a phone call or not showing up for a meeting, for many of us, that's the proper thing to do rather than call them out. That's more of a modern day, white man kind of a thinking, at least I think. Utilizing our elders is another traditional way where we as tribal leaders or whatever we are think we're all it and leave out that segment of decision making or reliance upon our tribal elders to utilize them.

And I think what I'm gathering as part of what's happening here is to rebuilding nations is really about going back, going back. It's not building the tribal nation, it's rebuilding and it's remembrance and keeping a lot of our cultural values alive, of the form of governance that was thrust upon us. And if we look at those things, I do have a question specifically for you guys or anyone can answer this and that is, what would happen if salaries were not paid to elected council members and only expenses were paid, what kind of people would we have in there? What would we gain, what would we lose, what would it look like if we went back to that traditional sense of governance where these were not paid positions? Looking forward to your responses."

Robert McGhee:

"Just want to touch on a couple things there that you stated before. Yes, I have an allegiance to my family but I was raised to have, mostly from my mother, my father was a military man and things, but my mom, there was something about honesty, there was something about humility. And what bothers me is say when I have a larger family, not the nucleus but the extended family come up and ask me to do something that is inappropriate. I don't have a problem asking them, "˜Why are you asking me to do this? This is not...' because right now when you sign, when you run for council it's no longer mom, dad and my brother and my nephews and my grandparents, it's my...it's the 3,000 other members. Now every council member in here may have a different idea of that. That's mine. I represent all of them, the ones that you don't want to represent, the ones that still will call you by not your real name, any other name, the ones that still have some varied problems that we need to address. So I always know that I can go back to my family once I'm done serving my terms if I choose not to get elected because my dad doesn't allow us to speak tribal politics in our house either whenever we have an event or anything like that because he used to serve there. So he's like, "˜No one's allowed to come up to each other and talk to me about this or that or why did you do that?' He posted it on...he actually has a sign, he writes and he puts it on the door, "˜No politics are going to be discussed today,' which is helpful because sometimes you do...all of us here, you do get tired of going to certain events because you know someone's going to come up and ask a question or question you about this so at least I know it's...in the house, dad's house, it's off limits even at my brother's house "˜cause he served too. So he's like, "˜We don't talk about that.' To get back to your calling out question, I think I put that, yes, when I said calling out but keep in mind that we do it respectfully. It's one of those things of when I know...I don't necessarily have to call you always out in front. If I know you're upset, what I'm going to do though is have a conversation with you somewhere to ask why because I don't think me personally that we can move forward until I know what your issues are.

The full-time council...I agree with you on the...our part-time members...about four years ago we only got paid a stipend of $50 a meeting, five years ago. However, though, I would say the difference between that was there was also a different leadership at that time, too, so the council wasn't involved...a lot of them were involved but they just didn't feel that they had the time because there were some things going on where, "˜We're going to have a meeting today at 10:00.' "˜Well, I can't make a meeting today at 10:00. I'm working.' And until you got this...until you can change where you know that the leadership or whoever, the chairman, is going to respect if it's either a part-time council or a full-time one to know that we'll work around various schedules. I meant they do it for us now. We ask them, because like I said, two of us are part-time so we only have workshops on one day a month, all day. I actually use vacation time to do that. But the rest, they're welcome to attend their committee meetings. The committee meetings that I serve on, I'm allowed to determine when those meetings are so I think it could work as a part-time, but I don't think you would have the problems that you do. But keep in mind when you're full-time too, I think there are added pressures where a lot of the general council members now are looking at qualifications of putting somebody in office because they're paying them this much money. So that's actually a good, I would say a good side to it. Now, individuals are having to run on their qualifications because they're making salaries that are...that the program director or so and so, I make this and I have to have a master's in this or I make... So what are you bringing to the table as a council member that you're worth that much money? And so I think that's a good thing to it. It's stepping up to get other individuals involved that have qualifications or whatever those qualifications are it just could be not necessarily educational, it just could be serving on various committees or boards or things like that. And we have a cell center, just so you know, and that's where all our seniors hang out, all our elders hang out and I'm there probably...I eat lunch with them once a week to twice...to hear what they have to say. And we play bingo with them in the area and that's the best time to do it is when they're all gathered and just, "˜Well, what do you guys want us to see or where did I screw up today,' and they'll let you know quickly where."

Catalina Alvarez:

"I think as...and you're right, as individuals we're taught from the beginning our roles, our female roles and male roles and where you stand and even how we should address our elders. I think one of the things with the previous councils and when I first came on to council is we have our cultural leave availability for employees to do their cultural participants and participate in their culture activities. And I think as I talk to elders as a council, when we would get into discussions and I had one of the councilmen go, "˜You're supposed to respect your elders all the time.' It's true, but as a council, you guys are all equal, we are all equal at least my response to them because you were all elected by the people and they expect you to have a voice like any other individual on council. That was my response to him. And I think that more and more the council understands that we all should have a voice in how we do things and even elders in our council, they're always constantly...and I point out to Mary Jane [Buenamea], "˜They'll keep us in line as well,' but I think they're open to know that we all can share our own ideas and still try to move forward on some of our activities. I know that the last council since I was the only female, they would not include me in some of the discussions on cultural and even like on stipends that we give for our festivities, which I would get upset because I'm like, "˜as a council, male, female, I'm here as a voice to the people that voted me in. So you can't hold that against me that I can't give my input on what's going on.' But I think as we move into a full-time council I think if they weren't...if we wouldn't receive a stipend, it would be very difficult to move as fast as we have I think. As a council it allowed us to pass a lot of and meet more frequently to get things done within the tribe."

Audience member:

"I had my question for Robert and I wanted to know...you talked about the three sides that have to be heard. Could you just tell us very quickly what those three sides of any issue?"

Robert McGhee:

"Your side, the other side and the opinion. There's always this side, this side, but then there's also just what's the opinion out there of this problem. There's a lot more of those than there are the opinions themselves." 

Related Resources

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Vice Chairwoman of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe Catalina Alvarez shares what she wishes that she knew before she first took office, and focuses on the importance of elected leaders understanding -- and confining themselves to performing -- their appropriate roles and responsibilities.

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Treasurer of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians Robert McGhee shares some of the things that he wished he knew before he first took office. He also discusses how he and his elected leader colleagues have built a team approach to making informed decisions on behalf of their constituents.