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Salt River names acting chief

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Published Monday, September 26, 2011

Salt River First Nation of Fort Smith has begun the process of replacing former chief Frieda Martselos, whose last day as leader was Sept. 9.

As a first step, the band council appointed an acting chief - Coun. Gloria Villebrun - at a meeting on the evening of Sept. 9.

"It was unanimous," said Coun. Connie Benwell, who was serving as acting chief last week as Villebrun was out of town.

Villebrun will remain acting chief until a byelection is held to select a new chief to complete the little more than a year remaining in Martselos' term of office.

No date has yet been set for the byelection.

Benwell said the date for a by-election will be set at a special membership meeting on Oct. 7. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. at the band office.

The byelection will be held within 60 days of the special meeting.

Along with setting a voting date, Benwell said the special meeting will appoint an electoral officer and select an election review committee. That committee, which will be made up of people who are not band members, would be called upon to adjudicate any issues that may arise after the vote.

A byelection would not have been required if there had been less than nine months remaining in Martselos' term of office.

Martselos was first elected chief in a byelection in April of 2007. She was ousted by band council a week later, but reinstated by a judge in early 2008. She was re-elected chief in August of 2008, but that was overturned on appeal.

In 2009, Martselos was once again elected chief to the term from which she has resigned.

In an Aug. 23 resignation letter to band council, Martselos wrote that the past few months have been a challenge.

"Personally, I feel council is not working together to strive for greater things to benefit all members equally," she stated in the letter.

She first announced her intention to resign at a band council meeting on Aug. 9.

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