Pokagon Band Chair takes new position in Lansing
Published 1:04 pm Monday, October 21, 2013
Matt Wesaw has made it his life mission to protect people.
In 1979, Wesaw entered his first position in public service when he joined the Michigan State Police force, serving at posts in Jackson, Flat Rock and Lansing over his 26-year career. In 1996, Wesaw became tribal chairman of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi, and in 2008, he became president/CEO of the Pokagon Gaming Authority.
Now, Wesaw is taking his passion for protecting people to the next level. When he begins his tenure as executive director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights on Oct. 28, he will be responsible for protecting the rights of the people of Michigan.
Wesaw said his time with the Pokagon Band has prepared him for his new position as Executive director.
“It’s a similar role as I’ve had with the tribe,” he said. “To put it honestly, the Department of Civil Rights will just require more leadership. With the tribe, I worked with 10 other councilmen.”
Wesaw’s new role will make him responsible for nearly 100 employees within the Department of Civil Rights.
“I feel very privileged and honored to have been selected,” Wesaw said. “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 was selected by The Civil Rights Commission at their Oct. 7 meeting in Lansing. Wesaw said he had been on the commission for 8 years when Daniel Krichmaum’s retired from his position as executive director in July.
“I got a phone call encouraging me to take the position, so I applied, and I was chosen soon after,” Wesaw said.
“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 Gov. Rick Snyder in a press release. “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.”
Wesaw has served in several other civic leadership positions including vice president of the Michigan State Police Troopers Association (1995-2001), the Director of Government Relations for MSPTA (until retirement in 2008), tribal council member and vice chairman of the Pokagon Band and chairman of the Commission on Indian Affairs.
Wesaw is the first Native American to hold the position of executive director, and was only the second to hold a position on the Michigan Civil Rights Commission.
As executive director, Wesaw will be responsible for implementing public policy set forth by the Civil Rights Commission. He will be responsible for providing leadership in five offices throughout the state: Detroit, Lansing, Flint, Grand Rapids and Marquette.
When Wesaw steps down, Vice Chairman Bob Moody will fill the position until the Pokagon Band hold a special election in January 2014 to elect a new chairman.
“It’s really not anything I haven’t been doing for the majority of my career,” said Wesaw. “I’ve been protecting the rights of the people all my life.”