After six years in retirement, Clement J. Frost has returned to the office of Southern Ute chairman.
Frost was sworn into office Thursday, May 29 as the new chairman of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe. Gaining 33 percent of all votes cast in the May 28 special election, Frost will serve out the remaining six months of late Chairman Jimmy R. Newton Jr.’s term.
Frost is no stranger to the Tribal Council or chairmanship. He has been in and out of office since first being elected to the council in 1979. He first became tribal chairman in 1996 and previously has served as Southern Ute chairman for a total of seven years.
With time already ticking on Frost’s term, he wasted no time appointing Councilman Mel Baker as the new vice chairman.
“I thought about who would be best to listen to the tribal members today, and I am appointing Mel Baker my vice chair. He worked for housing, and he has been out there talking to the people and I know I have his support,” Frost said.
He then went on to appoint his former vice chairman, Michelle Olguin, as the new executive officer.
“Michelle Olguin has many degrees and she understands working with Tribal Council. She was on council as my vice chairman,” he said.
After naming his appointees, Frost got to work, making his agenda clear to all in attendance.
“As I stand before you, I have had concerns in the six years I have been absent from council. … I’m going to offer my directions and my thoughts on how I want to see us work together. We need to think about the membership and meet the needs of our membership, not the government,” Frost said. “Our leadership needs to strengthen themselves, to help our people. … That’s my first priority: the membership.”
Frost then went on to discuss his concerns about recent changes made to the organization’s policies and procedures.
“Some policies are going to be on hold until we study and evaluate them. We have to acknowledge the rights of our employees. I don’t want an organization that is fearful for their jobs, I want an organization that will work together on behalf of the people, for the people,” Frost said.
Frost tallied a third of all votes, topping fellow candidates Joycelyn Peabody Dutchie (21 percent), Matthew J. Box (19 percent), Kevin R. Frost (13 percent), Barbara Scott-Rarick (11 percent) and Shelly Thompson (3 percent). Out of 900 registered voters, 389 votes were cast.
“By the people for the people: That’s why we are elected. There are six months left, and it’s a new day. [Frost] is going to take on that role as a leader not just for the Southern Utes, but also for all our Ute people,” Ute Mountain Ute Chairman Manuel Heart said.
Council members from sister tribes Ute Mountain Ute and Northern Ute were in attendance at the inauguration ceremony, bringing gifts and offering support to Frost.