Previously chosen by the council, Robert Miguel (left) became the first elected chairman of Ak-Chin Indian Community under its new bylaws. Gabriel Lopez was elected vice chairman.

Voting members of the Ak-Chin Indian Community elected incumbent chairman Robert Miguel Nov. 19 in what was the first-ever direct election of the position.

The council adopted a new constitution in July that altered the election process to allow for direct voter participation in the selection of the top two positions. In previous years, votes were cast only for council members, who, once elected, chose from their ranks a chairman and vice chairman.

Miguel, whose grandfather was chairman in the 1970s, is proud to have been part of this significant election and is honored to have been democratically chosen to lead his community for the next four years. To him, this direct election not only legitimizes the post, but also exhibits the outstanding democratic traits underpinning the community.

“This is historic,” Miguel said. “This is the first time that the people chose, and fortunately for me I was the first to be elected.”

Miguel and Vice Chairman-elect Gabriel Lopez will serve until January 2021. Three council members elected will serve two-year terms until January 2019. Out of eight candidates running, the victors were incumbents Delia Carlyle (the current vice chair) and Ann Antone and newcomer Alvin Antone.

For the community, this election is only a waypoint on the long path of development. To excel in a modern world, Miguel said achieving sustainable development also means addressing social issues.

“We’re taking steps to improve their lives, healthcare wise, education wise, infrastructure wise,” Miguel said. “We have a wave of 125 homes coming up here pretty soon, and a new admin building.”

Aside from the social stability the community is also focusing on its geographical growth. Miguel has long-term plans for growth, and half-jokingly admitted one of those goals is to try to buy back land one piece at a time.

“Right now, what we need to focus on is expanding our land base. We are always looking to see if we can purchase land adjacent to our community that we can put it in trust. I’m talking about 40, 50, 60 years from now because we’re going to grow. We’re going to need more land base to accommodate our members in the future.”

One such land acquisition was the Ak-Chin Southern Dunes golf course, which, along with farming, contributes to the economic growth of the community. The main moneymaker, however, is the entertainment complex and casino, which is currently undergoing a large renovation and expansion project expected to be completed by 2020.

‘We’re looking to continue developing our entertainment district,” Miguel said. “We want to build things that will accommodate the two [Harrahs Ak-Chin and UltraStar Multi-tainment].”