Perry Begay Sr. shakes hands with Ernie Beleen on Tuesday near the Tiis Tsoh Sikaad Chapter House during the special election. Begay won the election,
Perry Begay Sr. shakes hands with Ernie Beleen on Tuesday near the Tiis Tsoh Sikaad Chapter House during the special election. Begay won the election, according to results provided by the candidates. (Jon Austria — The Daily Times)

TIIS TSOH SIKAAD — Registered voters of Tiis Tsoh Sikaad Chapter have elected a new chapter president.

Perry Begay Sr. won the special election on Tuesday, defeating former chapter president Lester Begay and newcomer Raymond Anderson.

According to information provided by the candidates, Perry Begay won the election with 68 votes.

Anderson and Perry Begay offered conflicting reports of who finished in second and third places. Officials from the Shiprock office of the Navajo Election Administration could not be reached for comment on Tuesday evening, and unofficial results were not available. Lester Begay also could not be reached for comment on Tuesday night.

A sample of the recall election ballot is seen on Tuesday at the Tiis Tsoh Sikaad Chapter House.
A sample of the recall election ballot is seen on Tuesday at the Tiis Tsoh Sikaad Chapter House. (Jon Austria — The Daily Times)

"I'm grateful for the help that I received from my supporters," Perry Begay said Tuesday night.

The special election was scheduled after Lester Begay was recalled as chapter president on May 5 via a recall petition.

Perry Begay served as chapter vice president from 2008 to 2012 and ran for reelection in 2012 but lost by seven votes.

During an interview Tuesday afternoon, Perry Begay said he decided to run for chapter president because he has more than 30 years of management experience, and older chapter members encouraged him to run based on that experience.

Perry Begay, 54, is a U.S. Army veteran and the vice commander of the Tiis Tsoh Sikaad Chapter Veterans Group.

"I believe that I can help out with my expertise and management and also my skills that I have as a veteran," he said.

Since the chapter's administration took office in January 2013, Perry Begay said, projects have come to a standstill because people have been "knocking heads" for the past year and creating "animosity." Because of that, he wants to restore harmony in the community.

He said he also plans to rebuild the relationships the chapter had with Arizona Public Service, BHP Billiton and Navajo Agricultural Products Industry, which, in his opinion, have "gone downhill."

"It's the people that we got to listen to. It is not an 'I,' it is a 'we,'" Perry Begay said. "We can't do it by ourselves, it takes a community."

As voters cast their ballots on Tuesday afternoon, Anderson said he wanted to reunite the community because he has heard reports of disagreements between entities in the chapter. The 54-year-old encouraged residents to get interested in community issues.

"I always tell them, I don't see myself leading the people. I come together with the people, as one, as we make a change to the community," he said.

Anderson's grandparents are from the chapter, where he spent his childhood before the family moved to Fruitland. He returned to the chapter after completing his military service in the Army, earning a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Arizona State University and working in the region.

Anderson, who is a minister, was in the process of building a church near Navajo Route 5 in the community when he decided to run for office.

"One of the people nominated me to run for president, so here I am," said Anderson, whose bid for chapter president was his first time running for elected office.

Former chapter president Lester Begay, 52, is originally from the Chaco Canyon area but has called Tiis Tsoh Sikaad home for years.

After completing school, he worked in the oil fields, learned welding and worked his way up the corporate chain into management. He helped establish the Navajo Nation Boilermakers Union, where he served as union president until 2011.

Through his career and union work, he lobbied in Washington, D.C., for grants and funding to address community development and improvements.

After he took office in January 2013, Lester Begay noticed the chapter, which was certified in July 2011 under the tribe's Local Governance Act, did not have ordinances to address zoning nor economic development policies.

He said he reviewed the chapter's records and found mismanagement of the chapter's finances.

"I looked at the chapter budget, then I looked at the plan. All these projects they had, it looked so impressive, it looks like they've done a lot of things," he said on Tuesday afternoon. "I looked out of the window, I don't see anything."

He said he wanted to continue working on road improvement, water infrastructure and economic development for the chapter.

"Somebody has to step forward and say we're way off course. If we want something done, we got to go to work. We got to do it right," he said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and nsmith@daily-times.com. Follow her on Twitter @nsmithdt on Twitter.