01 February 2005

'Famous Dave' Anderson Leaves D.C.

Yet another Bush Administration I apontee calls it quits...


'Famous Dave' Quits BIA
Anderson plans private-sector projects to help Indians
Pioneer Press

Dave Anderson of Famous Dave's barbecue fame, the top Minnesotan in the Bush administration, is resigning as head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, saying he can do more to promote American Indian economic development in the private sector.

In his resignation letter, released Monday by the Department of the Interior, Anderson said he will stay on the job as U.S. Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs until Feb. 12. He then leaves to undertake an economic development project in connection with Harvard University's Native American Program.

Anderson, who has held the job for a year, said in December he intended to stay through the next four years of the Bush Administration. In an interview Monday, Anderson said neither frustration in running an agency of more than 10,000 employees, nor criticism of his decision to take the BIA job but recuse himself from gaming decisions because of his ties to the gaming industry, played a role in his decision to step down.

"It wasn't why I left," said the Edina resident, who visited St. Paul on Saturday to serve as grand marshal of the St. Paul Winter Carnival's Grande Day Parade. "I'm 52 years old, and I don't think to spend the next four years there until I'm past 55 would be a good use of my time."

"Now I think it's appropriate for me to get back to what I know best — being an Indian businessman, and the best rib cook in America."

The BIA appointment was Anderson's first government job, although he earned a master's degree in public administration from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and served on federal task forces and advisory councils concerned with Indian affairs.

At the time of his appointment, Anderson's background in casino management raised questions about possible conflicts of interest, and Anderson subsequently removed himself from BIA decisions on gambling and tribal recognition to avoid ethical dilemmas. The move, however, drew criticism from Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., who argued in May that because deciding such matters was among the secretary's most important duties, Anderson was doomed to be an ineffectual leader.

Although Dodd called for Anderson's resignation at the time, Anderson dismissed the senator's arguments .

Anderson said he plans to return to counseling American Indian teens at the LifeSkills Center for Leadership he founded in Minneapolis and to cheerleading for his Eden Prairie-based restaurant chain, Famous Dave's, though he doesn't plan to play any formal role there. He has no plans to be part of Gov. Tim Pawlenty's recently announced casino initiative, he said.

Anderson, who left the casino business in 1996, made his early fortune in gaming. He was part of a trio of businessmen that formed Grand Casinos Inc., one of the most successful Indian casino management companies in the country. A Chicago native, Anderson is a member of both the Choctaw Tribe and the Hayward, Wis.-based Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Chippewa.

"His life story is truly a tale of the American dream come true,'' said Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn. "I admire his accomplishments and his steadfast commitment to helping the Native American community."

Anderson said his new entrepreneurial project is in the early stages, but described it as a type of task force that will develop case studies of tribal reservations. He said he wants to look at tribes that have been particularly successful at economic development, examine the problems they encountered, and package the information for tribal governments to use.


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