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Stanhoff resigns as head of Prairie Band Potawatomi

MAYETTA, Kan. - The 18-month tenure of the chairman of the Prairie Band Potawatomi has ended with her resignation from office.

Tracy Stanhoff, who was appointed as interim chairman of the band in January 2006 and then elected to serve a two-year term, plans to return to California, where she owns an advertising and graphics business.

''Basically, I came back to help the tribe in an interesting situation where they were taking over the managed property and establish an entertainment property. I finished the job and decided it was a good time for me to leave,'' Stanhoff said.

The Prairie Band Potawatomi has recently taken over total management of its casino and entertainment complex from Harrah's.

In an interview with Indian Country Today, Stanhoff said that she had set up a lot of road maps that represent a lot of projects for the tribe, in addition to an 8(a) application on the reservation.

She said in the short time she was in office, state and tribal relations had improved and that an MOA for motor vehicle license tags had been accomplished after there had been a fight in court over the issue.

''We came to a better agreement; that was historic,'' she said. ''We are usually butting heads with the state.''

While Stanhoff was in office, a reservation that had been historically reserved for one of the chiefs is now once again in the jurisdiction of the tribe after 150 years. A new health clinic was established and there is a development for an expanded gateway, a new highway in the area that Stanhoff began negotiating.

''There are a lot of things the tribe can finish; I don't need to be in office to do that,'' she said.

Stanhoff will return to California to manage her business, AD PRO, an award-winning graphic design, advertising and public relations firm. She is also the president of the American Indian Chamber of Commerce.

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''Overall, I will regard my role as tribal chair as one of the greatest honors that has ever been bestowed upon me,'' she said in a release. ''I've been proud to serve as the elected leader of my people during this important time in my tribe's history; and I would especially like to thank the elders of the tribe for providing me with their support and great wisdom over the past year.''

Stanhoff began her tenure as chairman in January 2006 and was appointed to fill a vacant position. In July of that year, she was elected - ''overwhelmingly,'' she said - from outside the reservation, a rarity for the tribe.

Three other women have been elected as chairmen of the Prairie Band Potawatomi since the 1940s.

Even though the tribal leaders have limited experience in some matters, such as diversifying the tribe's business ventures from gaming, Stanhoff said she is confident that the business left unfinished will

be accomplished.

Stanhoff said she is still a tribal member and as a general member will do what she can to help move the tribe forward.

''I will be an active member of the tribe,'' she said.

If there was any criticism of tribal government from Stanhoff, it was not directed at the Prairie Band Potawatomi; but she has some advice for all tribal councils and government.

Tribal leaders who are beholden to the tribe for the income and the job often can't set aside their personal agendas and quite frequently lose their way, according to Stanhoff.

''It's not a political function when you serve on a tribal council sometimes, it's more of a business council than a political arm of the tribe,'' she said. ''I moved the tribe without a personal agenda and I didn't need the tribe or office for my personal income; I had another source of income.''

''It was a great experience, what an honor, what a wonderful thing. It's going to add a lot of what I can offer to people and Indian businesses and so forth in Indian country, since I'm still the president of the American Indian Chamber,'' she said.