A First Nation’s chief who has led his community for almost 20 years has announced he will not seek reelection for the position when community members go to the polls this spring, but he also has no plans to walk away from public life entirely.
On Thursday morning Long Plain First Nation Chief Dennis Meeches announced he will not run for chief of the community of about 4,600 band members that sits near the city of Portage la Prairie when community members go to the polls to select their next council and chief in April.
Meeches did say however that he wants to stay involved with the Long Plain council but in a different capacity and that is why he will run in the April election but for the role of councillor and not chief.
Meeches said that his decision was made partly because he believes as a councillor he would have more opportunities to work directly in the community and with community members.
“A big reason for this is that as chief you are pulled all over the place and in so many directions,” Meeches said. “I want an opportunity to keep working but I want to turn my attention more to the community and to the people.”
Meeches has served Long Plain as a public official for almost 26 years both as a councillor and as chief, as he was first elected as a councillor in 1988, and he held the role of chief on two different occasions from 1998 to 2009, and again from 2013 to today.
Meeches said another factor in his decision is that he now wants to see more young people in the community start to step up and run for positions on council and as chief.
“I really want to see the next generation start stepping up and running for these positions,” 59-year old Meeches said. “We need a new generation to start leading, and it’s time to get some new people with some new ideas in here for the good of the community.”
If he is elected as councillor in April, Meeches said he would also focus on working with new council members and the new chief to help them get settled and comfortable in their new positions.
“I believe I can be there as a mentor for some of the new people,” he said. “These days it’s a very big job and there is so much involved with these positions, so I want to be there to help the new people however I can.”
In his time as chief Meeches said he is proud of the economic and business progress that has happened in Long Plain, but added he wants to stay on council because he believes there are still challenges facing the community, including improving housing and fighting for more social services in the community.
Long Plain First Nation community members will go to the polls on April 14 to select their next chief and council.
— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun