Biography: BIA nominee 'Famous' Dave Anderson
Monday, September 15, 2003

After months of waiting, the White House finally got around to picking a new assistant secretary to run the Bureau of Indian Affairs. So who is this nominee?

His full name is David Wayne Anderson, age 50. Of Ojibwe and Choctaw heritage, he's a member of the Lac Courte Oreilles Lake Superior Band of Ojibwe in Wisconsin. He's married, to Kathryn, and they reside in Edina, Minnesota. He is a graduate of Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, where he received a master's degree in public administration in 1986.

Anderson is a household name is some circles and his face can be seen in some supermarket aisles. All because of Famous Dave's Barbeque, a restaurant he started in 1994. The first location was in Hayward, Wisconsin.

Since then the company has grown to a publicly-traded chain of of 87 restaurants in 23 states. Last year, Famous Dave's of America reported $90.8 million in revenues, up 3.6 percent the year prior, although the company had a net loss due to a lawsuit settlement and other business arrangements.

Traded on the NASDAQ as DAVE, naturally, the company lost $928,000, or $0.08 per share for 2002. Shares closed at $6.35 on Friday, up 0.41 the day prior. Analysts give the stock mixed reviews, from "strong buy" to "neutral." The company's Securities and Exchange filings can be found here and here. [Note the recent "Statement of changes in beneficial ownership of securities" in the second link. Currently serving as chairman of the board of directors, Anderson will step down from all capacities at the business if he is confirmed by the Senate.]

Anderson worked for his tribe at one point, serving as CEO of the Lac Courte Oreilles tribal enterprises in 1982. According to the White House and his company, he helped stabilize the business, which saw revenues grow from 3.9 million to $8 million during his tenure.

It was at this point where his private career intersected with the public sector. His success at LCO was mentioned by the Commission on Indian Reservation Economies, which was formed by former President Ronald Reagan to examine economic conditions in Indian Country.

The commission was co-chaired by former Cherokee Nation chief and former assistant secretary Ross Swimmer, who now serves as Special Trustee in the Bush administration. Former assistant secretary Neal McCaleb, a member of the Chickasaw Nation, also sat on the panel, which issued a report that called for a number of controversial changes, including dismantling of the BIA. Tribal leaders, at the time, overwhelmingly rejected the suggestions.

Anderson went on to serve in a variety of public service positions. He sat on the Wisconsin Council on Tourism (1983), the Council on Minority Business Development for the State of Wisconsin (1983) and the National Task Force on Reservation Gambling (1983). From there, it was a seven-year gap to his appointment, by President Bush, to the Advisory Council for Tribal Colleges and Universities (2001) and the American Indian Education Foundation (2003).

Some may remember Anderson for a recent appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show. As part of her Angel Network, she highlighted Anderson's dedication to helping at-risk Indian youth and young adults through his LifeSkills Center for Leadership. Winfrey gave the organization a $25,000 grant in 2002.

Other honors, according to the Department of Interior, include being named a Bush Leadership Fellow (1985), being named Minnesota and Dakota's Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst and Young, NASDAQ, and USA Today and being named Restaurateur of the Year by Minneapolis-St. Paul Magazine (1998). He was also a torch carrier for the 2002 Winter Olympics.

As head of the BIA, Anderson would oversee about 10,000 employees, the overwhelming majority of whom are Native American. He would set policy for the agency, which would be carried out by his staff.

By the time Anderson gets to BIA, he will find a changed organization. Central office in Washington, D.C., has been shuffled and realigned due to an ongoing reorganization spurred by the Indian trust fund lawsuit. The BIA's regional offices are still undergoing changes.

As a political appointee, Anderson would have to recuse himself from dealings or interests affecting his tribe. The Lac Courte Oreilles Tribe is asking the BIA to take land into trust for an off-reservation casino. The proposal is controversial because it is opposed by other tribes and was the subject of an independent investigation during the Clinton administration. The matter is currently in litigation because the former Wisconsin governor objected to the land-into-trust application.

Today on Indianz.Com:
Bush finally nominates BIA assistant secretary (9/15)

Relevant Documents:
DOI Press Release: Secretary Norton Praises President's Intention to Nominate David Anderson as Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs (September 12, 2003) | Famous Dave's Statement (September 12, 2003) | White House News: Personnel Announcement (September 12, 2003)

Related Stories:
BIA's Martin breaks unofficial boycott of NCAI (06/17)
DOI begins second transition period on Indian affairs (04/29)
Bunker mentality evident in trust reform fight (04/22)
White House asked to bring DOI to the table (02/25)
McCaleb latest in long line of DOI departures (11/25)
McCaleb changed, yes, but little else did (11/22)
McCaleb resigning from BIA (11/22)
How to Mismanage Indian Trust Assets Without Really Trying (08/07)
Feathers ruffled in and out of Indian Country (07/31)
Key trust reform player leaving BIA (02/28)

Copyright � 2000-2003 Indianz.Com