Fresh ideas, jobs focus for Conrad Jacket
Yonger generation should train to lead Ute Mountain Utes, he says
Conrad Jacket, 30, exudes enthusiasm for the opportunity to serve the Ute Mountain Ute community as a Tribal Council member.
His campaign last year failed to earn him a seat, but he has learned from the experience and is again on the ballot for the Oct. 11 tribal election.
“I have learned a lot since then, listening to the needs of the people, watching and understanding the process of government,” Jacket said in an interview. “I feel confident that I can do the job and vote in the best interests of the people.”
Jacket works for the tribe’s job-placement program, and has firsthand knowledge of the community’s needs and concerns.
“Some days I talk with 100 people, hearing their problems finding work. I know how important it is for people to have a job, pay the bills,” Jacket said.
He’s not afraid of hard work. After graduating from Montezuma-Cortez High School, he served in the military as an Army mechanic from 2003-2006, with the last two years in the Iraq war.
Returning to Towaoc after serving his country, he felt that the lack of jobs and poor communication between the government and the people were bringing the tribe down.
“I feel a lot of opportunities were lost due to lack of cooperation, mistrust and not enough action,” he said.
The tribe missed out on a project for a new museum complex at the Four Corners Monument that would have included badly needed water lines, and a sewer plant.
Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico anted up $2 million, and the federal government matched it, but the $4 million was lost after the deadline passed because of a political deadlock on management issues.
“That was a lack of leadership, and we lost a new museum. There are other opportunities we should pursue. Solar on our reservation land has not been taken advantage of. Building storage units might work. All that could translate to jobs for our people.”
Leadership is in his blood as well. Jacket’s grandfather, Scott Jacket Sr. served as tribal chairman and was also on the Tribal Council for many years.
He believes tribal government needs fresh ideas, and feels term limits should be considered for elected officials.
“When ideas get old, I think you should let someone else in and give it a try,” he said. “The whole point is to train the younger generation to take over, keep the ideas fresh.”
A struggling economy has hit the reservation hard.
“Right now, people have to go to Cortez for steady work. We encourage our members to go to college, but when they graduate, there is nothing here for them, Jacket said.
“We’re a big voice in the Four Corners with tourism and the casino, but I think we can do more. Developing and expanding our industry takes time and hard work, but pays off in the future.”
Leadership is not all about money and jobs either, Jacket said. Communicating with the public, and providing social services, health care, and housing are also key components for the tribe’s success.
“I feel those programs need more support. Not enough of our tribal members are taking advantage of the assistance programs either,” he said.
Taking the time to keep tribal members informed needs improvement as well.
“I see people are confused about issues because no one is explaining it to them. That is how rumors get started, and everything starts to go downhill,” Jacket said. “I will focus on informing people so they understand. Right now, there is no information coming from the top down.”