MOHEGAN, Conn. (AP) — Despite serving six terms on the Mohegan Tribal Council, Mark Brown never counted on electoral success.

"Every time I ran, I was nervous about winning," he said in a recent interview. "This time was no different."

His doubts about securing a seventh term proved well founded when the results of weeks of secret-ballot voting among tribal members were revealed Aug. 25. Brown and a fellow incumbent, Joe Smith, a cousin seeking his second term, had been unseated by newcomers.

How much of it had to do with them being related to Brown's brother, Kevin, who resigned as the nine-member council's chairman in February, citing "personal" reasons? Did the circumstances of Kevin's departure — sources have said he was the subject of an ethics probe — cost them?

"I don't know," Mark Brown said. "I do think people look at us as individuals. ... Politics have changed, on every level. It used to be you shook hands, you talked to people. Social media's now a tool to throw people off course."

Nearly a quarter-century's a long time in elective office, he said.

Long enough to make enemies.

First elected to the council in 1995, Brown won re-election to consecutive terms of varying lengths in 2000, 2005, 2007, 2011 and 2015. After garnering the most votes of any candidate in the 2000 election, the council elected him chairman, an office he held until 2005.

He recalled that when he joined the council, he briefly kept working part-time as a Montville police officer, a dual role that would now be unimaginable.

Newly recognized by the federal government, the Mohegans soon focused on developing a casino. At the time, the very notion that the "little tribe on the hill" could emulate what the Mashantucket Pequots had accomplished with Foxwoods Resort Casino seemed almost fanciful, Brown said.

"The dynamics of that first group (the council elected in 1995) was the best," he said. "It was an amazing time. Everything was changing, every day. It was an extreme learning curve."

The councilors' diverse backgrounds served to promote open conversations that led them to make the right decisions, Brown said.

"We 'Moheganized' things," he said. "We hired the best, people like (Mohegan Sun executives) Bill Velardo and Mitchell Etess, and they came in and said, 'This is how we do it in Las Vegas and Atlantic City.' ... 'But we live here,' we'd say. 'We know what people's expectations are ...'"

The Moheganizing process meant treating employees like they were family members — listening to their complaints and accommodating their special circumstances, Brown said.

"We're not like a typical business. We're going to be here forever," he said.

Brown said he was especially proud that when Mohegan Sun reached one of its milestones — its 15- or 20-year anniversary — some 2,400 employees had been with the casino since Day One, about two-thirds of those hired at the outset.

It's true that no Mohegan Sun workers have affiliated with a labor union.

A "military brat" who grew up on Montville's Fielding Terrace, Brown is a direct descendant of renowned Mohegan Chief Matahga and the son of Pauline Brown, a "nonner," a designation the tribe accords its highly respected women. Brown's fond of an anecdote from his youth — the day his first-grade class at Mohegan School visited the nearby Tantaquidgeon Museum.

The class was met by Ruth Tantaquidgeon, Brown's great aunt, who, he said, "gave me a hug, spun me around and held me in front of the class."

"You know the Indians?" his wide-eyed classmates demanded.

Brown believes the $30 million the tribe paid to widen Route 2A and create Mohegan Sun Boulevard was "the best thing we ever did," an example of the tribe's willingness to cooperate with the state and allay local concerns. A share of the Mohegan Sun slot-machine revenue the tribe sends to the state is doled out to Connecticut municipalities, and the tribe provides another $500,000 annually to Montville, its "host community."

Former law enforcement officer that he is, Brown pointed to the 4,500 calls a year to which the tribe's police, fire and Emergency Medical Services personnel respond.

During Brown's council tenure, Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment, the tribe's gaming arm, has reached far beyond Mohegan Sun to include ownership of Mohegan Sun Pocono in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and affiliations with Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City; ilani Casino Resort in La Center, Wash.; and Paragon Casino Resort in Marksville, La.

MGE has gone international, too, assuming management control of casinos in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, and launching an integrated resort project in Incheon, South Korea. The company also expects to pursue casino licenses in Japan and Greece.

Bombarded by competitive threats, the tribe keeps striving to protect what it's already secured.

"It's not so much about growth as stability," Brown said.

Mohegan Sun "prepared and overprepared" for MGM Springfield, the Massachusetts resort casino that opened a year ago, an approach that may have helped mute the new facility's impact. Brown said he was heartened to hear MGM Springfield executives say they misjudged the loyalty of the Connecticut casinos' patrons.

Expansion plans by New York City-area racetrack casinos seeking to add live table games may pose a greater threat to Mohegan Sun than the Massachusetts casinos, he said.

Meanwhile, the Mohegans and the Mashantuckets remain jointly committed to an East Windsor casino project and possibly one in Bridgeport as well, all of which is tied up in talks between the tribes and the governor's office.

Whatever happens, "we'll be fine," Brown promised. "Right now, all parties are engaged."

After 24 years in office, Brown didn't sound like he intended to disappear. He was asked if he plans to run for the council seat his brother's resignation opened a seat to be filled in an upcoming special election.

"I'm not sure," he said. "I've got options I've got to look at."

Online: https://bit.ly/2lHVI4L

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Information from: The Day, http://www.theday.com

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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