JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – For most lawmakers in the Show-Me State, this week is an opportunity to step away from politics and recuperate after the legislative session and the following extraordinary session.
An election typically isn’t on their minds now, but for Rep. Rocky Miller, Election Day is literally just days away.
Miller is now in a race for the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council At Large, and the general election is scheduled for June 3.
The Cherokee Nation Tribal Council is the lawmaking branch of the Cherokee Nation’s tri-partite government. The Tribal Council is composed of 17 elected members who serve staggered four-year terms. Nine of those seats are up in this week’s election.
Thirty-three candidates entered their names in for the election back in March, and Miller’s name is situated at the top of the list for at-large candidates, which includes a total of seven candidates. The other 26 are split among eight different districts.
To be an at-large candidate, one must be of Cherokee heritage, living outside of the Cherokee Nation’s boundaries.
Miller is one-sixteenth Cherokee, and still recalls the trips to Oklahoma with his grandfather. He says his grandfather, an Ameren lineman at the Lake of the Ozarks, used to gather up toys and goods each year around Christmas and deliver them to a children’s home, which was Miller’s first experience with the Nation.
Miller says that back then, the tribe was not doing so well, often with members living in poverty, basically disbanded as a tribal unit until the 1970’s. But now, decades later, the Cherokee have become the largest tribe in the United States, with nearly 300,000 people enrolled in the tribe, most of them living in Oklahoma. Miller says that the tribe has a roughly $2 billion economic impact on the surrounding area, with casinos, stores, and businesses throughout the area.
When Miller first ran for the Missouri House of Representatives, he said he called the Cherokee Nation to reach out. A few years later, while attending the Ride for Remembrance, when members of the Cherokee ride bikes along the path of the Trail of Tears, he became a board member for the Trail of Tears Association, which led him up to where he now is: running for a seat on the Tribal Council.
Miller says his experience in leadership and as a small business owner, as well as his involvement in the community, are his strongest assets, serving on a number of boards and groups and as a state representative. He hopes that, if elected, he can represent the At-Large population strongly and help continue the work of the Trail of Tears Association.
He also says that his experience as an environmental engineer and his time in the energy sector will be beneficial as the Cherokee Nation looks to expand into that industry.
Miller says the At-Large citizenry of the Cherokee Nation would benefit from his leadership and knowledge of both technical and governmental experience.
But he also said it’s a different kind of election than the one he is used to since it’s almost all absentee voting for the At-Large members spread out across the states. Miller did campaign using email, social media and mailers to get the word out but says that he’s up against a very good field of candidates.
Some of the contenders for the seat have impressive resumes. Shane Jett is a three-time state representative from Oklahoma and has run for Congress. Mary Baker Shaw and Linda Leaf Bolin have both worked as organizers of the Cherokee for years in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, respectively.
“There are some great people that I’m running against, and I’ve gotten to know some of them really well,” he said. “They’re just a fantastic bunch. I’ve been making lifelong friends and meet tons of people.”
With absentee voting already completed, and the final deadline just days away, Miller says it’s just a matter of waiting. And while he’s never liked losing, he says that the experience and ability to offer his help to his tribe is a victory on its own.
PHOTO/TIM BOMMEL – HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS
Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.