CASS LAKE - In a close race to determine the head of the Leech Lake Tribal Council, Carri Jones made history with her win over incumbent Arthur "Archie" LaRose in Tuesday's general election.
In a close race for District 3 committeeman, LeRoy Staples-Fairbanks III also defeated the incumbent, Eugene "Ribs" Whitebird.
Jones was elected chairwoman by receiving 50.09 percent of the votes. Jones received 1,335 votes, while LaRose received 1,330 votes for 49.91 percent.
With her win, Jones, 32, is both the youngest person and first woman to become chair of the Leech Lake Band, she said.
"It's time for new leadership," Jones said. "It's time for my generation to start taking over. I feel I have a lot to offer. I'm thankful and proud to make this mark in Leech Lake's history."
Jones found out she had won Tuesday night after a long, stressful day, she said.
"I felt such a sense of relief and accomplishment for myself and my supporters," she said. "This is a great victory, and it meant so much to us."
Jones said she decided to run for chairwoman because of the state the tribe is in financially, she said.
"I think with my experience I will be able to get the band into a more positive direction," she said.
Jones graduated from Bemidji State University with degrees in accounting and finance and has worked in tribal government for 12 years. She has been a financial officer for the band for the last three years.
"I base all of my decisions on finance," Jones said. "I think that's the backbone of a great organization. I know all of the band's financial background, so I think that's a huge step up for me."
Going into Tuesday, Jones said she didn't know how the election would turn out.
"You can never tell until the last vote is cast," she said. "I had a dedicated campaign committee behind me. I knew it'd be close."
LaRose could not be reached for comment.
In the District III committeeman race, Staples-Fairbanks III received 50.83 percent of the votes to win over incumbent Whitebird, who drew 49.17 percent of the vote. Staples-Fairbanks had 919 votes to Whitebird's 889.
If there are no requests for recounts or appeals from their opponents, Jones and Staples-Fairbanks should be sworn in at the beginning of July.