Candidate for Secretary-Treasurer: Leonard M. Fineday

Greetings people of Leech Lake!

My name is Leonard “Lenny” Fineday, and I humbly request your support and vote to be your next Secretary/Treasurer. I was born at CLIHS in 1982 and grew up in Portage Lake (Bena area) and Cass Lake. I graduated from Cass Lake Bena High School in 2001, Bethel University with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in 2005, and Marquette University School of Law in 2011 with a Juris Doctorate . I have also been licensed to practice law since 2011. I have spent the past nineteen years working for Indian Country, from interning at the National Congress of American Indians to my current position as legal counsel for the White Earth Nation. My father was the late Reverend Leonard F. Fineday and my mother is Mary Fineday.

Previously, I was a member of the Cass Lake City Council, a member of the Leech Lake Tribal College Board of Trustees, and served two terms as President of the American Indian Bar Association of Minnesota. Currently, I am a school board member of the Cass Lake Bena School Board, a member of the Statewide Juvenile Justice Initiative Advisory Board, and co-chair of the ICWA subcommittee of the justice for children. These past and present leadership positions have instilled in me the importance of public service, understanding the role of a governing body, implementing strategic goals and priorities, and promoting effective and meaningful change. . These are the qualities I hope to bring to the Leech Lake Reservation Business Committee.

My top priority is to work very hard to restore trust between our people and the tribal government. We need to have greater transparency in our decision-making and we need to take the time to gather input from band members in all strategic, long-term and impactful decisions. The voices of our band members must be heard and lead the way in our decision making. All RBC meetings are to be livestreamed for comment and input from band members, with agendas posted as early as possible so our members are aware of the decisions that are about to be made. Local Indian Councils need to play a greater role in gathering community input and setting the direction for our tribal government.

Along with transparency, we must move away from the subtle culture of fear that has plagued our tribal politics for too long. I know even now there are rumors circulating that with the upcoming transition to RBC, there is a growing “list” of people who are going to be laid off. I can assure you that I don’t have a list and I hope and intend to work with everyone. Working within Tribal Government, whether as an RBC member, director, manager or frontline worker, all positions are service positions to our band members. This is what we must keep front and center in any discussion of employment in tribal governments. Who you support or who you know or who your family is should not determine whether you will have a job or not; the knowledge, skills and abilities that we bring to the table and the ability to serve our people effectively should be the guiding principles in our employment decisions.

Moreover, the RBC should not even be involved in hiring and firing and other HR matters. The RBC sets the policies and procedures, and then the human resources department and management staff implement those policies and procedures fairly and consistently. This is how our HR process should work, and I hope to bring this change to Leech Lake so that RBC can focus on governance and the broader stuff.

When it comes to our Band’s finances, we need to develop short and long term plans that will ensure that we are using our resources properly and living within our means. I was pleased to see the recent attempt to meet with band members on the FY23 budget as required by the budget order, but I’m also saddened to hear that the RBC did not succeeded in enacting the FY22 budget and that even at this late stage, planning is still incomplete for the FY23 budget. I am grateful to our accounting and finance staff at RBC and within Gaming, but there needs to be much stronger support from the secretary/treasurer of our accounting teams to move financial planning forward. I will be directly involved in the development of our budgets and financial plans in accordance with direction from across RBC, our employees and the strategic plan we are developing together.

There are, of course, many other areas to address: housing, chemical dependency, child protection, education, natural resource protection, services for the elderly, health care, and many others. My hope and desire is to tackle these issues together, as the people of Leech Lake, by incorporating your voice into our planning and implementation. This is the only meaningful way to bring about real and lasting change. I intend to work on an overall plan for Leech Lake that addresses all of these areas with input from band members setting priorities, goals and benchmarks. This comprehensive planning document will be the map of our success and will help us work together to help restore and rebuild our reserve and our communities.

I am convinced that our best days are still ahead of us and that by working together we will become stronger, healthier and better positioned to live our Anishinabe way of life for generations to come. I am available to meet with you or your family before the election. Please contact me at (218) 760-1712 if you would like to meet me! Also call or email if you need an absentee ballot or a ride to the polls. Once again, I humbly request your vote on June 14, 2022 and I am available to answer any questions you may have.

Miigwech!

Leonard “Lenny” Fineday