Red Lake Member, Tim Sumner, Elected As Beltrami County Chairman of Board of Commissioners


Commissioners hold a short meeting before adjourning for the day. County Board Chairman Tim Sumner is in the dark blue shirt.

Published January 9, 2017

BEMIDJI, MINNESOTA — Timothy A. “Tim” Sumner, a member of the Red Lake Nation, has been elected chairman of Board of Commissioners in Beltrami County, Minnesota. Sumner was first elected to the Beltrami County Commission in November 12.

Sumner thanked the audience “for the respect you have shown by letting me honor my tradition. I’m looking forward to serving the citizens of Beltrami County. During the campaign I said I wanted to build a better community. As commissioners we don’t always agree, but the one thing we do agree on is doing what’s best for all the people of Beltrami County.”

Sumner won his seat on the Beltrami County board in November 2012 over incumbent and fellow Red Lake member Quentin Fairbanks who served in that capacity for 12 years. Sumner and Fairbanks were the first American Indians to face each other in a non-tribal election in the history of Minnesota. Sumner was the youngest person (at 28) ever elected to the County Board.

Lakeland News Reporter Haydee Clotter interviews the new Chairman of the Beltrami County Board, Tim Sumner

On the County Commission, Sumner serves District 4, which is a mix of American Indian and non-Indian. It is in the northern half of the county, and represents about half the land in Minnesota’s third largest county.

Sumner is the third commissioner in a row from Red Lake. Fairbanks served three terms or 12 years. Fairbanks’ predecessor Sandra King served only one term (1996-2000). King was the first American Indian in the state of Minnesota to be elected as a County Commissioner. Red Lake members, at the end of Sumner’s current term, will have held this seat for 24 years.

Sumner says he will continue to work with both tribal, city and township officials for the betterment of all peoples. He said it was important to treat everyone the same in the district both on and off the reservation. “I think it’s important to have that government to government relationship, there are ways the county and tribe can work better together,” he said.

Tim is married to Rhiannon (Barrett) Sumner. They have five children. He grew up in Ponemah and graduated from Red Lake High School. Having lived in Redby for a time, he has recently moved back to Ponemah with his family. Tim is an AmeriCorps Alumnus, and is a former officer of the Red Lake Political Education Committee (RLPEC).

Thirty-two years of age, Sumner comes from a family of eight. He has six sisters and one brother. His grandfather served on the Tribal Council at one time, and his grandmother served on the School Board. “I come from a background of folks who believe in public service,” said Sumner.

Photographs by Michael Meuers






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