After completing the water tower portion of the Home-ownership project in 1993, the Director of HUD, Region V Indian Programs, sent me a congratulatory letter on achieving the task of resolving compliance issues and the success of our building project. I immediately shared it with my direct boss, the tribal administrator and the Chief of the Council. They seemed fairly happy for me but after a few years it dawned on me that I had started a competition of sorts. Not my intention but that is how it was between the three of us from that point forward. The tribal-administrator became my first, “go-tween” communicator, as the Chief and I began to cement our rivalry.
The HUD funded water tower was constructed to service BIA school and the housing project. The tribe would match the program with a portion of my salary which was about 8 dollars an hour with full benefits. The IHS (Indian Health Service) representative invited the Cheif and I to take a tour of the newly constructed water tower similar to the one located at our golf course.
We met at the empty water tower. After entering the access area I immediately started to climb up the ladder, no saftey gear at all. Soon the Cheif and the IHS contract adminstrator were behind me as we ascended up the ladder, unsecured. I was pretty young and dumb, did I mention that fact?!
I wonder why they followed me to this day and often assume it is an internal drive to compete or something becuas it sure was dangerous.
On the descent my hand became very sweaty half-way down but we all made it down.
I mentioned earlier the Chief and tribal council government of the Hannahville Indian Community hired me to manage and resolve compliance issues with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, in order resume housing construction programs for the tribe.
Several federal programs were available, such as the section 8 voucher or another low-rent housing program. The board and I chose a rent-to-own program called the Mutual help Homeowner Opportunity Program, which provided housing at a discounted rate. Another income-based housing program but one the resulted in owning the housing unit for the tribal member. Another lesson in local and family politics in this process too, but that is another story as well.
The director of Region V, HUD Indian Programs was a Choctaw man, and very insistent on rule and regulation enforcement, even when the project was over 20 years old with dilapidated and rotting housing units, he still wanted 30% of tribal member income collected as rent to fund housing operations. If done successfully this would resolve compliance issues and grant status would be restored to the tribal entity.
Re-certification or Certification is a process where household income is evaluated and rental payment are based on the adjusted income. The Chief live in one of the 15 units of low-income housing project from the 1970’s. I computed his payment first and found out the amount would be quite high. He said he was not paying that much for a house in the condition he lived in at the time. I agree with him but he wanted the program reinstituted but did not want to pay his rent. It made my job more difficult and also created a negative relationship with him and the director. At this point I felt both were making my job harder. I just wanted to see some Indian people get housing.
Hence, my very negative political career began. I was very young and gullible to the world. I thought everyone played fair. I should have known better after seeing many “trustworthy” people take advantage of my Dad Wilsey.
The board (tribal government leaders) and I eventfully resolved the 20 year compliance issue and won a new contract for 1.4 million that funded a 10 unit home ownership project with water and newer infrastructure.