Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to provide this statement in support of my nomination to be a member of the Board of Trustees of the Morris K. Udall Foundation. I am honored and grateful that President Bush saw fit to nominate me to this position and, if confirmed, look forward to continuing my public service by helping to advance the mission of the Udall Foundation.
My professional career and personal background has provided me with valuable experience and perspective to bring to the Udall Foundation. I grew up in northern rural Michigan close to the shores of Lake Michigan. Following my undergraduate education at James Madison College of Michigan State University, I earned a law degree from the Duke University School of Law. I then returned to Michigan, where I practiced in the Government and Commerce department of a mid-size Capitol city law firm, before joining the Republican policy staff of the Michigan House of Representatives.
In 1999, at the outset of former Governor John Engler’s final term, I was honored with the opportunity to join Governor Engler’s administration as his Deputy Legal Counsel. During my tenure in the Governor’s office, I was responsible for managing all aspects of the State of Michigan’s relationship with twelve federally recognized Indian tribes. Like most states, Michigan did have its disputes with the sovereign tribal governments located within its borders. I am proud, however, of the role I played in minimizing these disputes, in emphasizing cooperation over conflict, and in laying the groundwork for a more beneficial relationship in the future.
While serving in the Governor’s office, I wrote the first ever Governor’s Policy Statement on State-Tribal Affairs and created the position of Governor’s Advisor on State-Tribal Affairs, in which I served until the end of Governor Engler’s term. I negotiated a State-Tribal Accord that emphasizes consultation and cooperation between the state and tribal governments and that will guide the relationship between these governments into the future. That Accord was signed by Governor Engler and the state’s tribal leaders in 2002. Also in 2002, I organized the second of two annual state-tribal summits between the Governor’s Cabinet and all of Michigan’s tribes. These were the first such summits to take place in Michigan, but hopefully will be the first of many.
In addition to advocating for a closer and more cooperative relationship between the state and tribes, and helping to set in place the framework for the further development of that relationship, I led the state executive office in negotiating two landmark agreements that evidence the benefits of such a relationship. In 1999 and 2000, I helped lead negotiations between the state and five tribes for a conservation-based consent decree governing state and tribal fishing in the Great Lakes. This decree brought settlement to nearly thirty years of divisive litigation and even more importantly put in place conditions that allow for the rehabilitation of native lake trout.
During my time in the Governor’s office, I also helped lead negotiations for comprehensive state-tribal tax agreements that were signed last year. I also led efforts to educate members of the business and retailer community and to garner their support for legislative ratification of these agreements. While a number of states and tribes have reached agreements concerning tobacco and motor fuels taxes, Michigan and its tribes are the first to reach agreement as to the administration and applicability of all state and tribal taxes to transactions involving tribes and tribal members. These agreements not only put to rest complex and often divisive tax issues, but also provide economic certainty that is of great benefit to tribes seeking to lure economic development and diversify tribal economies.
Now that Governor Engler’s term has ended, I have returned to the private sector, where I will head the Indian law practice at the law firm of Dykema Gossett, PLLC. I am excited that my new career will allow me to continue my efforts to both foster cooperation between tribes and other governments and bring greater economic opportunities to tribes and tribal members. Although the work of the Udall Foundation, in part, also provides leadership training and consultation to tribal leaders, neither my new role nor my prior position with Governor Engler has given rise to any matters that might place me in a conflict of interest if I am confirmed to the Board of Trustees for the Udall Foundation.
I believe that my professional focus on promoting cooperation and negotiation as the best means to resolve conflicts is an outlook that fits well with the mission of the Udall Foundation, as well as with the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution managed by the Udall Foundation. My background allows me to bring to the Udall Foundation personal experience to emphasize the gains that can be achieved within Indian Country by cooperation and negotiations between tribal and state governments, conducted in an atmosphere of mutual respect for one another’s sovereign status. I can also bring to the Udall Foundation the perspective of tribal and state governments from the Midwest, whose issues often differ from governments in Western states but are no less important to the Udall Foundation’s activities. Finally, as a Republican who has worked closely with leaders of the business community on numerous issues, it is my hope to promote the Udall Foundation’s activities to an audience that can both benefit from and assist those initiatives.
In conclusion, I would greatly appreciate the support of the Committee on Environment and Public Works and the United States Senate as I seek to continue public service as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Udall Foundation. I will, of course, appear as a witness at the request of any duly constituted committee of the Congress and, as noted above, do not know of any matters that might place me in a conflict of interest if I am confirmed to this position. Thank you for the opportunity to submit this statement and for your kind consideration.