A new health center director as well as a judge were appointed last week by the chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and the Tribal Council.

Howard Billie was named director of the Choctaw Health Center while Melba Smith was appointed Peacemaker Judge during the council's Jan. 8 meeting.

Tribal Chief Beasley Denson said he was confident in the new appointees.

"Healthcare for Tribal members is an ongoing issue for the Tribe and a priority of my administration. I feel comfortable in Howard's abilities. He is in tune with the medical staff from our doctors to administrative personnel. I am confident he will guard and protect the health and welfare of our tribal members," Denson said.

In appointing Judge Smith to her position, Denson said Smith "is very articulate and reads up a great bit to understand the tribal laws and traditions. I am confident that she will carry out her duties fairly and accurately."

Billie currently resides in the Pearl River community and is a native of the Tucker community. He is the son of Paul and the late Kate Billie.

He has been serving in the capacity of acting health center director since September of last year. Billie has a strong background in health care spanning the past 31 years, with the past 23 years working for the Choctaw Health Department. He has a record of performance in the strategic planning, developing, marketing and management/administration of diversified health care services and the communication skills in Choctaw and/or English necessary to provide for hospital direction.

His past experience includes serving as the director of Radiology Services, at which time he expanded radiology services to include the CT scan and bone densitometry modality. In addition he opened and supervised the Radiology Department for approximately 10 years beginning in 1985, including planning and advocating for and acquiring the mammography modality currently in service.

Billie also has been awarded the IHS department manager of the year and technologist of the year awards, along with the award for designing the logo still used by the IHS Radiology Services for the entire United States. Additionally, he served as vice president of Mississippi Society of Radiological Technologists.

He holds a bachelor of science in radiological science from William Carey University.

He is married to Patricia Billie, an RN at the Choctaw Health Center, and has two children, Michael and Laine.

Council members present at the meeting also commended Billie for his service.

"He shows a true concern in the health center and a desire to improve. He knows the concerns of the Tribal people. I look forward to working with him and helping improve the lifestyles of the Tribal members," said Vice Chief Eddie Sam.

Council woman from Bogue Chitto, Diamond Hundley agreed.

"He took on a big task and overcame many obstacles. I believe he is going to need our support to get our heath care facilities where they need to be," she said.

Billie accepted the position and thanked the council for entrusting him with the position.

"I would like to take this opportunity to thank Tribal Council and Miko Denson for placing their trust in me. I would like to think this is just a start. Running the hospital is a challenge. We are going to try to change the hospital and find folks that can help us, said Billie.

"When patients come through our doors, I want them to have a good positive feeling about our facility and services when they leave. I appreciate your sincere approach to me and I will do the best I can to satisfy the needs of our people."

Judge Smith began her career with the Bureau of Indian Affairs where she served in the Social Service Program for 10 years. She also served two years under the BIA with the Choctaw Police Department.

After her tenure with the BIA, Judge Smith began work with the Tribe in the Choctaw Early Childhood Program in numerous capacities including teacher's aide and education coordinator. She then accepted the director's position with the Standing Pine Childcare Center. She left her post at the center to go back to the childhood program to serve as a child development specialist.

She is a graduate of Choctaw Central High School and received her associates in applied science from East Central Community College.

In accepting her appointment, Judge Smith noted her appreciation.

"I look forward to working with the Judicial Department and my people. I would like to thank Miko and Tribal Council for this opportunity. I also would like to thank my family members and relatives who have supported me along the way and above all else, the good Lord for the guidance he has bestowed upon me. If it wasn't for his guidance, none of this would have happened in my life."

She also paid tribute to past directors and chiefs.

"I have been honored to be appointed by three directors to serve in several posts during my career - Harold Keyes with the BIA and Jerry Parr and Melissa Lewis Tenhet with Early Childhood Program.

"I also am very humbled to be appointed by two Tribal Chiefs to different postings. In 1986, the former chief, Chief Phillip Martin asked me to take a position working with court ordered youth placed in the Choctaw Central High School dormitory. This was a six month program under a limited budget. And today, Miko Denson recommending me to this post - it is truly an honor."

Judge Smith is married to Roger Smith and has two daughters, Priscilla Wahwasuck and Vanessa Smith and seven grandchildren. Her parents were Frank Bell Sr. and Ivenia Bell.