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Southern Ute Indian Tribe, Colorado

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Three years after he retired, Leonard C. Burch defeated Howard D. Richards Sr., 181-94, to become chairman. He will fill the last two years of John E. Baker Jr., ousted in a recall vote in December. Nine ballots were spoiled. Burch was first elected in 1966 at 32 and served until 1996, except for three years in the mid-1980s, retiring from the council in December 1998. "I'm ready to hit the ground running,'' Burch said Feb.9. "We need to pick up some projects that may have been left on the back burner.'' Specifically, Burch will turn his attention to the Animas-La Plata project. Congress authorized a scaled-down project last year, but didn't appropriate money to build it. Burch also said he would try to improve communication between the chairman and the tribal council, and between tribal government and tribal members. Eighteen tribal members, including two tribal police officers and members of the election board, turned out to watch as the ballots were pulled from a glass box and tallied. Burch stressed attention to health care, education, employment and financial opportunity during his campaign, common themes of recent Southern Ute elections. He expressed support for the tribe's financial plan and the plan's growth fund, its economic development arm.