Leonard Burch, 67, newly elected chairman of the Southern Ute Indians, called on tribal members to regroup and move forward after a stormy period that led to the ouster of the tribe's last leader. The former, longtime chairman came out of retirement to run for the position left vacant after John E. Baker Jr. was removed in a recall election in December. About 250 tribal members, employees and visitors attended a ceremony Feb. 13 to watch Burch take the oath of office at the Sky Ute Casino in southwestern Colorado. Burch named Clement Frost as vice chairman. He then kept an election pledge to lobby Congress for money for the Animas-La Plata dam and caught a flight to Washington, D.C. The water project, in the works for 32 years, includes plans for a reservoir along the Animas River near Durango to provide water for three American Indian tribes and other area water users. Burch was elected chairman in 1966 and remained in the position, except for three years in the mid-1980s, until 1996. He retired from tribal government in 1998. Burch said he will try to improve communication between the chairman, the tribal council and tribal members.
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