Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Briefs. Discussion »
LANSING, MICHIGAN Matt Wesaw, the current chairman of the Pokagon Band Potawatomi, will resign that position effective October 25 and then will become the executive director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.
Wesaw will be based at the department’s Lansing office in the Capital Tower Building at 110 West Michigan Avenue.
Wesaw becomes the first American Indian to ever hold a cabinet position with the State of Michigan in its 176 year history.
“Matt Wesaw brings a depth and breadth of experience and sound judgment that will be of great benefit to the Department of Civil Rights and the state of Michigan,”
said Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.
“I look forward to joining with him in the important work of ensuring that every citizen of this great state has the opportunity to live, work, and learn in an environment free from discrimination, ready to pursue the opportunities around them.”
“I feel very privileged and honored to have been selected as Executive Director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights,”
said Chairman Wesaw.
“Having served on the Commission for several years, Civil Rights is an area that I am very passionate about and I’m excited to focus on it in the final phase of my career.”
Wesaw began his career in public service in 1979 when he joined the Michigan State Police. During his 26 years as a state trooper, Wesaw served at the Jackson Post, Flat Rock Post, and Lansing Post prior to being promoted to uniform sergeant in 1986. He was then transferred to the Criminal Investigation Division, where he became Detective Sergeant and served in the Organized Crime and Auto Theft Units. In 1995, Wesaw became Vice President of the Michigan State Police Troopers Association (MSPTA), serving in that role until January of 2001, and as the Director of Government Relations for MSPTA until his retirement in March of 2008.
In addition to his positions, during the 1990s he also served as chairman of the Commission on Indian Affairs under then Governor John Engler. Wesaw was appointed by Governor Engler to the Community Service Commission.
In 2004, Governor Jennifer Granholm appointed Wesaw to the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, becoming only the second American Indian to hold that position. He served as chair of the Commission in 2010 and 2011.
In 2007, Wesaw was hired by the board of directors of the United Tribes of Michigan which is comprised of the federally-recognized tribes in Michigan whose mission is to support the mutual interests of the American Indian community. He served in this position until his election as tribal chairman of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians in 2009. Wesaw also serves as the president and CEO of the Pokagon Gaming Authority, the governing body that oversees the Four Winds Casinos.
In 2009, Wesaw was elected by the leaders of the Midwest’s 37 federally-recognized tribes to the position of regional vice-president of the National Congress of American Indians, and in 2010 he was selected to the position of Recording Secretary for the organization.
In January of 2011, Wesaw was appointed by Governor Snyder to the Council on Law Enforcement and Reinvention committee. The committee is charged with evaluating the efficiency of the delivery of law enforcement services to the citizens of the state of Michigan.
Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Vice-chair Bob Moody will assume the day to day responsibilities of the chairman's office until a special election is held within three months of Wesaw's resignation. Since Wesaw had more than a year left in his term of office, per the Tribe’s constitution, there will be a special election held during late January 2014 to fill the chairman’s position.
updated 1:40 pm edt; posted October 19, 2013 11:20 am edt