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Chumash Tribal Chairman Vincent Armenta Resigns From Post

Vice Chairman Kenneth Kahn will serve as interim tribal chairman until a permanent replacement is elected

Vincent Armenta, left, is resigning as chairman of the Santa Ynez Valley Band of Chumash Indians. With him at a recent public meeting is vice chairman Kennth Kahn, who will fill the tribe’s top post on an interim basis until an election is held.
Vincent Armenta, left, is resigning as chairman of the Santa Ynez Valley Band of Chumash Indians. With him at a recent public meeting is vice chairman Kennth Kahn, who will fill the tribe’s top post on an interim basis until an election is held.              (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk file photo)

Vincent Armenta announced Thursday that he is resigning from his longtime post as tribal chairman of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians.

After 17 years, the longest-serving tribal chairman of the modern era said he is leaving to pursue a bachelor’s degree in culinary arts from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y.

Vice Chairman Kenneth Kahn will serve as the interim tribal chairman until a permanent replacement is elected, according to the tribe’s articles of organization.

“Nearly 17 years ago when I first became tribal chairman, I was a young man who had no tribal government experience, but what I did have was a strong desire to work on behalf of my tribe to take us to the next level and position our tribe for a better future,” Armenta said in a statement. “I believe I have done that.”

Armenta was first elected to his role in December 1999, and has been re-elected in every tribal election since. 

The decision was a tough one for Armenta, who said he's thought long and hard about leaving the Santa Ynez Valley, where he grew up, to follow his passion for cooking in New York. When he got accepted into his cooking school of choice, he couldn't pass up the opportunity.

"It's a new chapter," he told Noozhawk. "I am proud of everything that I’ve done. I believe I led our tribe in the direction they asked me to. As a tribal member, I’ll continue to voice my concerns, if there are any."

It's no secret Armenta has butted heads with Santa Barbara County officials over land-use issues, especially related to putting property into federal trust. He said he hopes the county will continue to work with the Chumash, recognizing the tribe as a sovereign government.

Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr, who represents the Santa Ynez Valley, struck a similar hopeful tone in her farewell to the tribal chairman.

"For as long as I have known and worked with Chairman Armenta, he has been a very diligent advocate for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash in moving them towards a stronger financial base and celebrating their history, culture and language," she said. "I wish him well in his future endeavors." 

In his time as chairman, Armenta has advocated for tribal members and housing, most recently trying to place the 1,400-plus-acre Camp 4 and Mooney/Escobar properties into federal trust. A museum showcasing Chumash history is also in the works.

The tribe credits Armenta with building a thriving business enterprise that includes the Chumash Casino Resort (currently under expansion), Hotel Corque, Root 246, the Hadsten House, two gas stations and a winery.

The Chumash also have a growing real estate portfolio spanning the Santa Ynez Valley.

“Under Chairman Armenta’s leadership, our tribe has traveled further than any of us ever thought possible,” Kahn said in a statement.

“He led our tribe from relative obscurity to being one of the most visible and dynamic tribes in the nation. I am grateful for all that he has done for our tribe and wish him the best.”

Armenta will start his four-year culinary program in the next few weeks.

“I have always enjoyed cooking, but it’s been a lifetime dream to delve further into the culinary arts and enhance my talents in this area,” he said.

“When one of my sons attended CIA a few years ago, I thought that someday I would attend – and that day has come. I will watch with great interest as our tribe’s new Tribal Chairman leads our tribe toward an even brighter future.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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