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Executive Committee

Tribal Council

The Pala Band of Mission Indians is governed by a six-member Executive Committee. Committee members are elected by the General Council, which includes all qualified voters 18 years of age and older. Elections are held every two years in November. The Tribe is governed by a constitution adopted in November 1994 and certified by the BIA Pacific Region in 1997 retroactive to 1994.

Current Executive Committee members are:

  • Tribal Chairman – Robert Smith
  • Vice Chairman – Brandon Johnson
  • Secretary – Theressa Villa
  • Treasurer – Theresa J. Nieto
  • Council Member – Sheila Smith-Lopez
  • Council Member – Carla Nejo

Robert H. Smith — Tribal Chairman

Robert H. Smith serves as Chairman of the Pala Band of Mission Indians, a position he has held since 1990. Chairman Smith successfully negotiated the first Tribal-State compact in California with Governor Pete Wilson in 1996. Subsequently, he supervised the opening of Pala Casino, creating thousands of jobs for tribal members and area residents. Chairman Smith’s work for the Pala Tribe includes providing health, vision, and dental insurance for all members, creating a $1.5 million home loan program, launching a $300,000 scholarship fund for higher education, purchasing additional land for the Tribal cemetery and securing 24-hour on-site ambulance, firefighter and paramedic service for the Pala Reservation. Chairman Smith is also responsible for opening the Pala Library and Pala Child Care Center.

Chairman Smith is a member of the California Tribal Business Alliance, San Luis Rey Indian Water Authority, Southern California Tribal Chairman Association, San Diego Association of Governments, Indian Health Council for North San Diego County, Pala Housing Authority, Pala Fire Department, National Fire Protection Agency, California State Fireman Association, Vivian Banks Charter School Parent Advisory Board and the Cupa Cultural Center. He also serves as Chairman of the California Indian Manpower Consortium and the California Fee-to-Trust Consortium.  Chairman Smith is a delegate on the National Bureau of Indian Affairs Tribal Leaders Budget Committee, the National Indian Gaming Association, the National Congress of American Indians, and the National Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Board.

Chairman Smith resides with his wife on the Pala Reservation in northern San Diego County. He has four children: Catherine, Victoria, Lorraine, and stepdaughter Jodi. Chairman Smith is Lizzie Blacktooth’s great-grandson and Annie Moro’s grandson. His parents are Victor and Marie Smith. He has one sister and one brother. A graduate of Fallbrook High School, Chairman Smith enjoys spending time with family, riding his Harley Davidson motorcycle, and attending ball games.

Brandon Johnson — Vice Chairman

Brandon Johnson was elected Vice Chairman in 2023 and began their term in 2024.

Theressa Villa — Tribal Secretary

Theressa Villa was elected Tribal Secretary in 2011. She previously served as Tribal Treasurer from 1991-1993 and has served on numerous tribal committees and boards. She graduated from Fallbrook Union High School and American Business College San Marcos. Villa has lived on the Pala Reservation for 45 years and has six children and nine grandchildren.

Theresa J. Nieto — Tribal Treasurer

Theresa Nieto resides on the Pala Indian Reservation with her husband and family. She graduated from Escondido High School and North County Business College. She enjoys watching ball games, traveling, going to the beach, and spending time with her family. Nieto has been Tribal Treasurer since 2001.

Sheila Smith-Lopez — Tribal Council Member

Sheila Smith-Lopez has served on the Tribal Council since 2012. Before being elected, Smith-Lopez was the Director of the Cupa Cultural Center in Pala.

Carla Nejo — Tribal Council Member

Carla Nejo was elected Tribal Council Member in 2023 and began their term in 2024.