In an earlier report we mistakenly identified the age of a recently elected Fort Peck tribal executive board member. Alexander Smith is actually younger than 24, making his recent election to the tribal executive board a record-breaking win.
Don’t let his suit and tie fool you: Alexander Smith is 20 years old. That makes him four years younger than the previous record holder Ken Smoker.
"Oh my gosh, I’m about to cry in Walmart just talking about it," Smith said.
Smith is at a Walmart about an hour and a half away from Wolf Point because he says there aren’t enough local business on the reservation to get everything he needs. He campaigned on the premise that it doesn’t have to be that way.
"Our biggest downfall is going off the reservation when we don’t have to," Smith said.
If the economy was better, he says some tribal members wouldn’t turn to drug dealing to make money. The unemployment rate on the reservation is between five and twelve percent, depending on the dataset. For comparison, the state average is just over three percent.
Smith says another way to deter crime is to give kids more things to do.
"Like a bowling alley or just a place for them to go and play, it will give them that excitement and social interaction with all the other kids," he suggested.
He says he’s working on submitting a grant to get a new playground on the reservation.
Drug abuse and crime prevention is something he says came up at over 18 forums and rallies he held during his campaign.
This was his second race. He says he ran as soon as he could, at age 18.
In a Facebook video announcing his win, Smith said:
"I’m so speechless and shaking. Words can’t describe how grateful I am."
He grew up in Phoenix, Arizona and moved to Fort Peck shortly after graduating high school. He says he’s received a few negative messages about growing up off the reservation but doesn’t see it as a problem.
"Just because I didn’t grow up in Fort Peck, doesn’t mean I didn’t face any of the problems that people do," Smith said.
He says he was raised by a single mother and has relatives who struggle with drug and alcohol addiction.
Smith will be joining a council with four other newcomers.
Olivia Reingold is Yellowstone Public Radio’s Report for America corps member.