By Ellen Thompson/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
The Fort Belknap Indian Community Council has its first female president.
Julia Doney will finish the term held by Darrell Martin, who stepped down Wednesday because of health problems. Martin succeeded President Ben Speakthunder, who resigned in May, the council said in a press release.
When Martin became president, he appointed Doney vice president from outside the council. Doney was serving as director of the Fort Belknap Head Start at the time.
When Doney became president on Wednesday, she was required to choose the next vice president. The tribal constitution requires that in the event of a vacancy, the appointed vice president must come from the tribe of the president who had left - in this case, Gros Ventre. Doney appointed a Gros Ventre council member, Raymond Chandler.
Chandler's previous council position, as a Gros Ventre at-large member, will remain vacant until the next general election, Doney said today.
She decided not to hold a special election after consulting the tribal constitution. A vacancy must be filled by a special election only if it will remain open longer than one year. Doney said she wanted to avoid the cost of a special election unless the law required it.
She said in her case it was important to appoint her vice president from within the council.
"We figured it was better to have someone who was elected to serve as one of the officers," she said.
For the nine months of her presidency, Doney will continue supporting economic development efforts, she said.
The council recently received a grant from a federal agency to open a meat smokehouse on the reservation. The grant of $450,000 will go toward building renovation and startup costs for the business, Doney said.
The council will also continue to promote the Little Rockies Meat Packing Co., she said.
Chandler said the council also will be improving housing, which he said is limited.
Doney said she is proud to be the first female council president.
"I guess we made history," she said.