Four Mohegan councilors start terms; Gessner elected chairman

Mohegan — James Gessner Jr., named eight months ago to serve as the Mohegan Tribal Council’s interim chairman, was elected to the post on a permanent basis Monday in voting among council members, the tribe confirmed.

Gessner had succeeded Kevin Brown, who stepped down as chairman in February and resigned from the nine-member council in July following an ethics investigation. An upcoming special election will be held to fill Brown’s seat.

Four council members — incumbent Thayne Hutchins Jr. and newcomers John Harris, Joseph Soper and Patricia LaPierre — took oaths of office Monday marking the start of new four-year terms. They had been elected in August in balloting among tribal members. Seats held by Gessner and three other incumbents — Sarah Harris, Kathy Regan-Pyne and William Quidgeon Jr. — were not up for election this year.

Following the swearing-in ceremony, the councilors elected Gessner as chairman and Sarah Harris as vice chairman. Also elected were Hutchins, treasurer; Regan Pyne, recording secretary; and LaPierre, corresponding secretary.

The council oversees the nearly 2,200-member tribe’s sovereign government and numerous business entities and doubles as the management board of Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment, which operates the tribe’s gaming enterprises, including Mohegan Sun, the tribe’s flagship casino. MGE also owns and operates Mohegan Sun Pocono in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and has interests in or manages casinos in Louisiana, Nevada, New Jersey, Washington state and Ontario, Canada. It is developing an integrated entertainment resort in Incheon, South Korea, and has applied for a gaming license for a project in Greece.

Gessner, who was serving as council vice chairman when Brown resigned, is serving his fourth term on the council. A Waterford resident, he previously held executive positions in Mohegan Sun’s marketing and player development divisions. He has a bachelor’s degree in hotel and restaurant management from the University of Southwestern Louisiana.

Among the newly seated councilors, John Harris, an uncle of Sarah Harris, worked for Pfizer for more than 30 years before joining the Mohegan Sun staff in 2013. He has chaired the Mohegan Tribal Housing Authority for nearly 25 years and served on the Preston Housing Authority and the Preston Redevelopment Agency. Soper, of Plainfield, spent 15 years working for Mohegan Sun and MGE, first as a senior financial analyst and then as director of sports and entertainment. LaPierre worked in Mohegan Sun’s human resources department for more than 17 years, most recently as the department’s vice president. She lives in Griswold.

A dozen tribal members are candidates for the vacant council seat, according to sources who said one of the candidates is Mark Brown, a six-term councilor who lost a bid for re-election in the August voting. Brown, a former council chairman, is the older brother of Kevin Brown.

Reached Monday, Mark Brown would neither confirm nor deny that he is seeking to return to the council.

The field of candidates will be narrowed to two in a primary voting process, following by a general election in which voting will conclude Dec. 6, according to the sources.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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