PLEASANT POINT, Maine — A tribal member who over the years served on the tribal council and twice as lieutenant governor died unexpectedly of natural causes Tuesday morning.
Tribal officials said Tuesday that Fred Francis, 59, would be missed.
“He served in politics for 20-plus years,” former tribal police Chief Joey Barnes said Tuesday. He said Francis twice served as the reservation’s lieutenant governor and also served several terms on the tribal council. “He’d be on it for a while and then he’d get off,” Barnes said of the tribal council. “Then he’d get back on.”
It was just last year that Francis stepped down as tribal councilor citing personal reasons.
Tribal Chief Rick Phillips-Doyle of Pleasant Point said Francis could be counted on to help. “Fred was a good man, he was always there to help when need be,” he said. “Over the years he has done a lot of things for a lot of people.”
Phillips-Doyle said that he and Francis first served together on the council in the 1980s. “He usually gave me a lot of good advice. He also was kind of the one who talked to me about running for governor this time.” Phillips-Doyle was referring to the most recent tribal elections when he was elected governor at Pleasant Point.
The tribal chief said that anytime someone dies on the reservation it was a great loss, but with “Fred, it just seems like it was so unexpected and really it was a shock to us all.”
Indian Township Tribal Chief Billy Nicholas Tuesday praised Francis’ leadership skills. Indian Township is Pleasant Point’s sister reservation and is located near Princeton.
“He was a very good leader for both communities, especially at the joint tribal council level. His leadership abilities never wavered from being able to make good decisions. He always made good decisions that were beneficial to the tribe,” Nicholas said.
Barnes Tuesday described Francis as a “great guy.” He said that when Francis served on the council in the late 1990s he was a major supporter of the police department in its battle against the drug problems on the reservation.
When not serving as tribal councilor or lieutenant governor, Francis was an investigator for child welfare at the Pleasant Point reservation. “Probably for 10-plus years,” Barnes said.
Over the years in his role as a tribal leader, Francis was an outspoken advocate for economic development. He expressed his disappointment when in 1994 he learned that the state Legislature voted down a $40 million Passamaquoddy casino in Calais. He was lieutenant governor at the time. “The Legislature started by saying they wanted to help economically depressed Washington County. Then they come back and say, ‘But this is not the way we want to do it’. How could somebody shoot down 700 permanent jobs and many more part-time jobs?” he said at the time.
The tribe faced several more years of rejection as they tried to build first a casino and then a racino Down East.
He is survived by four children, three boys and a girl. Funeral arrangements were not available Tuesday night.