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Tuesday, November 18, 2014
HARVEY HOPKINS OUT at Dry Creek Rancheria; CHRIS WRIGHT IN
The Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians, which has seen a drastic decline in revenues from its River Rock Casino since a bigger, newer competitor opened near Rohnert Park, has chosen a new leader.
Harvey Hopkins, chairman of the Dry Creek tribe for the past 10 years, lost his bid for re-election over the weekend, coming in last to two other challengers.
The new chairman of the tribe is Chris Wright, 43, who is also the head of marketing for River Rock Casino near Geyserville. Preliminary results shared Monday by two tribal members had Wright earning 41 percent of the vote to 35 percent for Salvina Norris, the vice chairwoman, and 24 percent for Hopkins.
Saturday’s election came at a pivotal time for the 1,200-member tribe, which has seen its casino revenues cut in half since the Graton Resort and Casino opened a year ago about 30 miles south.
After its casino revenues plummeted, Dry Creek defaulted on more than $140 million owed to River Rock bondholders and also remains delinquent on a $3.5 million annual payment to Sonoma County to offset impacts from the gambling hall on a hill overlooking scenic Alexander Valley.
Tribal members said Wright is a fresh face, smart and personable.
“Those that voted for him probably think he (has) younger ideas, maybe more marketing ideas to keep our casino going,” said tribal elder Reg Elgin, who supported Hopkins.
Elgin said Hopkins, 66, may have unfairly been blamed for River Rock’s troubles since Graton opened. But he added that “the voters were pretty adamant in their stand — they thought it was time for a change.”