Pokagon Band Chairman Steps Down to Run Michigan Civil Rights Dept.
On October 18, the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians announced that tribal chairman Matt Wesaw was selected as the Executive Director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights according to a tribal press release.
Wesaw, who is the first American Indian named to the position, will succeed Leslee Fritz, who was the interim director following the retirement of Daniel Krichbaum.
With the new appointment Wesaw has decided to retire from his roles as tribal chairman and president and CEO of the Pokagon Gaming Authority.
With Wesaw’s retirement, Vice Chairman Bob Moody will fill in as interim chairman unitl a special election that will be held in January.
Wesaw first served on the Michigan Civil Rights Commission in 2004 and was elected as Michigan Civil Rights Commission Chair in 2010 – until 2011.
Wesaw’s first stint as tribal chairman was in 1996 when the tribe completed a compact with the state to open a casino. He returned to the position in 2008 following the opening of the band’s first Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo. Wesaw has 26 years with the Michigan Department of State Police as a Trooper and Detective Sergeant and lobbyist for the Michigan State Police Troopers Association for seven years.
“I feel very privileged and honored to have been selected as executive director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. 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 said. “I leave the Pokagon Tribal Council and Gaming Authority in the very capable hands of my colleagues. I feel I have been able to contribute to the continued and long-term success of the Pokagon Band at important times in our history. I also have the utmost confidence in our current and future leaders and would like to thank all Pokagon Citizens for the support that they have provided me over the years.”
Wesaw will be responsible for implementing public policy set forth by the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, including providing executive leadership for the Michigan Department of Civil Rights and its employees working in five offices throughout the state to enforce civil rights statutes in the State of Michigan.
According to the tribal press release, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights is responsible for civil rights complaint investigation as well as outreach efforts and educational programs to promote voluntary compliance with civil rights laws. It is also home to the Michigan Women's Commission, the Hispanic/Latino Commission of Michigan, the Michigan Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission, Council on Arab and Chaldean American Affairs, and the Division on Deaf and Hard of Hearing.