Buzzard terming off council after 8 years, 12 total

Harley Buzzard was first elected to the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council in 2007, and to his current term in 2013. He is pictured with a gift he received when he departed from the council in 2011 after his first term. 

TAHLEQUAH – Now nearing the end of his eligible term, District 10 Tribal Councilor Harley Buzzard is preparing to leave the seat.

Buzzard, of Eucha, has served a total of 12 years on the Tribal Council. He was most recently elected in 2013 and will reach his term limit later this summer.

During his time on the council, Buzzard said there were many measures approved that helped the Cherokee people. He remembered fondly one of his own authorship involving competitive cultural grants for schools.

“I’m most proud of that,” he said. “I brought it to the council and we got it through.”

As for the legislation that didn’t get through or didn’t get heard, Buzzard cited measures he supported as election reform.

“I would have liked to see more done on election reform,” he said. “I think ballot harvesting is of concern. We also need to look at donations from people or groups that maybe shouldn’t be involved. These donors may care who wins, but they don’t have any connection or interest in the issues or problems of the Cherokee Nation. They might be from Tulsa or college students – you don’t know who they are.”

Buzzard has strong feelings concerning election reform. 

“We really need to do more to prevent ballot harvesting in our elections,” he said. “I think we need absentee balloting for military and people with disabilities, but others should walk in and vote.”

Buzzard’s District 10 has a long border. It is the most northeasterly of the districts, including much of southeast Ottawa County and northern Delaware County, encompassing much of Grand Lake. It stretches east through the middle of Mayes County, crossing Lake Eucha. It includes some areas that are sparsely populated in comparison to other districts.

For Buzzard, helping citizens that were not in the greatest proximity to the seat of Cherokee government was among his most fulfilling tasks.

“I always returned calls,” he said. “And if someone called me who lived outside my district, I didn’t just tell them to call their own councilor, I tried to help them. People are usually just looking for some help.”

Now about to leave tribal office, Buzzard had some pointers for the incoming council.

“It is what I would suggest for any councilor,” Buzzard said. “Do your research. Study the legislation. Don’t run on behalf of somebody or some faction. Run on your name, and run to help the people in your district and the Cherokee Nation.”

As the tribal constitution explains, Buzzard must only sit out four years and can then run again for CN office. Returning to the council is not at the forefront of his thoughts – not that a return couldn’t happen.

“It will probably have something to do with whoever is representing the district – whether they are doing a good job,” Buzzard said. “If they are doing a good job, I don’t think I’d consider running. But it’s an option.”