Statement by Assistant Secretary Neal McCalebon Decision to Retire from Public Service
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Interior Assistant Secretary - Indian Affairs Neal A. McCaleb, 67, today announced his decision to retire from public service, informing President George W. Bush and Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton of his plans to leave his current post on December 31, 2002. McCaleb released the following statement on his decision this afternoon. November 21, 2002

"After a long period of prayerful deliberation I have decided the time is right to bring my public service career to a close. I began my campaign to build real and lasting economic opportunities for American Indian people as far back as 1967 as a member of Oklahomans for Indian Opportunity. In my current position, I have been disappointed to learn that a contentious and litigious environment obscures the hard work that remains before us. The pathway to improve the quality of life for America's native people is to create strong economies. We must look to the future by creating new opportunities for Indian-owned businesses and building new markets for their products and services."

"President Bush and Secretary Norton have given me a unique opportunity to call attention to the need for true economic development in Indian country - building economies that are not dependent on the latest federal program or the latest shift in the political wind. I am grateful to them for allowing me to close my career in public service by sharing this vision. I will always remember September 17th, 2002 as the day Secretary Norton and I launched the most successful and productive summit on American Indian economic development in the history of the United States. I am confident that this administration will continue to demonstrate its commitment to America's native people."

"Secretary Norton and Deputy Secretary Griles have shown a personal commitment to bring real and lasting reform in the area of American Indian trust asset management. At DOI, dedicated people at the highest level are working day and night in the area of trust reform. The administration is meeting this challenging task with an unprecedented commitment of federal personnel and resources."

"However, while I have enjoyed a close working relationship with the Department's senior management team and we have undertaken significant initiatives on behalf of our American Indian beneficiaries, the constraints imposed by ever-present litigation have taken their toll.

Unfortunately, the litigation has taken first priority in too many activities, thus distracting attention from the other important goals that could provide more long-term benefits for Indian Country. For example, economic development for American Indians and Alaska Natives deserve full-time attention which is not realistic in the current environment."

"We have made progress. At times our consultation with tribes has been challenging but it has also been tremendously productive. We have come to broad consensus on many important issues. The success of the Tribal Leader/DOI Trust Reform Task Force is an example of the strong support and dialogue I have worked to build among American Indian and Alaska Native people and the leaders who represent them. I will cherish the lifelong friendships I have developed throughout Indian country during my tenure as Assistant Secretary."

"While I am retiring from the public arena at the end of this year, I will continue to provide advice and consultation on tribal economic development in my role as a private citizen. I plan to fully enjoy my retirement in the company of the people who matter to me the most - my wife, my children and our 14 grandchildren."