Thelda Rucker Boen has been campaigning for political candidates more years than she’d like to count.
In Rogers County she’s known as the “go-to” person when it comes to grassroot political organizations.
She’s organized campaigns for big time presidential candidates, senators, congressmen, governors, state legislators, state office holders and county officials.
But, just because she’s “retired” does not mean she’s through.
In fact, Boen is right in the middle of planning her latest campaign.
This time, however, she won’t be doing all the legwork for someone else. Boen will be campaigning for herself.
She has announced intentions to file for the District 7 Cherokee Tribal Council seat representing Rogers County in the upcoming Tribal General Elections June 23. Candidates will officially file for Tribal Council seats March 5-8.
“I want to make a difference,” Boen said. “For more than 18 years I worked in Indian Health Services, and I took care of Cherokee people from toddlers to the elderly.
“I have worked outside the Claremore hospital at satellite clinics at Salina, Miami, Jay, Sapulpa and the Tahlequah Optometry Clinic. I have worked with Cherokee Headstart children screening eyes and ears.
“I have volunteered for the betterment of the Cherokee Nation and Rogers County all my life,” Boen said. “For many years I worked with the Cherokee people. I know their needs.”
Education and healthcare services along with financial accountability should be the top priorities of elected officials in the Cherokee Nation, Boen believes.
She also wants to see added services in her home district such as a Cherokee tag agency in Claremore and a permanent food distribution site.
“I would like to see the Cherokee Nation-owned building near downtown Claremore converted to a tag agency to serve the growing population of this area,” Boen said. She said the nearest tribal tag agencies in Adair and Collinsville are busy places and sometimes people drive all the way to those locations only to find the posted hours have been changed.
“I’ve been there and waited outside with no place to sit,” she said.
Boen said another immediate need in Rogers County is a better method of distributing Cherokee food services.
“People are now having to stand in the rain, sleet and snow to get their groceries given to them out of the back of a semi,” Boen said. “This is disgraceful. It’s like feeding livestock from a pickup. Not all Cherokee people are fortunate to get big bonuses like the recent ones handed out by the current administration.
“The Cherokee people are better than this. Not one of our own should be treated in a disrespectful manner regardless of their financial situation. I’ll bet those receiving big bonuses didn’t have to stand outside the back of a big semi trailer until it was their turn. These kinds of discrepancies in treatment within the Cherokee Nation has to stop,” Boen said.
“The money we now are generating (from the Cherokee Nation Enterprises through our casinos) must be spent fairly,” Boen said. “Right now, I’m not sure that’s the case. That’s why I will support legislation to put in place a true checks and balances accounting of all money generated.
“Our Cherokee people deserve this, to know where the money is coming from, how much there is and what it is being spent on and who is getting paid what and when. I will represent the interest of everyone, not just a select few.”
Boen said one of the frequent concerns voiced by her fellow Cherokee regards the availability and awarding of education scholarship funds.
“Scholarships should be easily attainable for our young men and women who wish them,” Boen said. “So many Cherokee talented and smart young people are overlooked because of the vast amounts of paperwork and unnecessary red tape now in place. The process for applying for scholarship and educational assistance should and can be made simpler.”
Boen, now a Cherokee Elder, traces her heritage to the Rucker Community in Rogers County where her Cherokee grandfather Rucker built a school (Rucker School) that her sister and two brothers attended through the 8th grade. She’s proud to pay respect to her ancesters who came across the Trial of Tears.
“Our teacher was Cherokee Eva Buffington,” Boen said.
“I was born and raised in the Cherokee Nation, my children have been born and raised here, too. I know this is a great place to live and raise children. I want it to remain so for generations to come.”
Boen is married to Howard, a retired chemical engineer. They have three children (Billy, Suzanne and Dana), seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Boen has served on several area and regional boards and commissions including the Rogers County Mental Health Board, the J.M. Davis Commission (secretary), Oklahoma Quarterhorse Racing Commission Secretary, First Christian Church Bell Choir (former member) and the Rogers County Democrats.
Her campaign committee chair is Dorothy Foster Clay with Kim Younger Willis serving as secretary and Billie Craighead Heiligman serving as treasurer.
The campaign fundraising committee includes chair Curt Tuggle, Flo Rock Guthrie, Jack Spurlock and Donna Spurlock Trammel.
Event chair is Sally Lafayette (Fallingpot), Sherrie Payne Still, Vicki Dee Hester Baker, Jennifer Cain Sparks and Lydia Hauser Rucker.
Boen supporters will host a Hog Fry 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, March 4, at Curtis Gunn’s place east of Claremore, north of Justus-Tiawah School at 20603 S4180 Road.