Tribal Council

The Pala Band of Mission Indians is governed by a six member Executive Committee. Committee members elected by the General Council, which includes all qualified voters 18 years and older. Elections are held every 2 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 - Howard Maxcy
  • Secretary - Theressa Villa
  • Treasurer - Theresa J. Nieto
  • Council Member - Dion Perez
  • Council Member - Sheila Lopez

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, and subsequently 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 the opening of 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 and the National Congress of American Indians and the National Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Board.

Chairman Smith resides on the Pala Reservation in Northern San Diego County with his wife. He has four children; Catherine, Victoria, Lorraine and stepdaughter Jodi. Chairman Smith is the great grandson of Lizzie Blacktooth and the grandson of Annie Moro.  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.

Howard Maxcy — Vice Chairman

Howard Maxcy has lived on the Pala Reservation since he was five years old. Maxcy graduated Fallbrook Union High School in 1995 and has worked for the Fire Department in Temecula for the last 16 years, where he works as a Fire Apparatus Engineer. When he is not working or spending time with his wife and two children, Maxcy enjoys playing golf and softball for the Pala Braves. Maxcy has served as Vice Chair since July 2013.

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 board. She is a graduate of 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. Nieto is a graduate of 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.

Dion Perez — Tribal Council Member

Dion Perez resides on the Pala Indian Reservation with his wife and family. He is a graduate of Fallbrook High School and has been a Council Member since 2001.

Sheila Lopez — Tribal Council Member

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


Chairman Robert H. Smith

Pala Band of Mission Indians


Chairman Smith’s views on issues important to Native American’s include:



“We need to continue to develop, create and expand new tribal business enterprises that will provide more jobs and long-term employment opportunities for Native Americans.  We will seek out new avenues for tribal enterprise development, such as gaming, entertainment, and real estate.”


Water Resources:

“We [La Jolla, Pala, Pauma, Rincon and the San Pasqual Bands of Mission Indians] have come together as one body to be a political advocate for the tribes – to fight for our water rights, address tribes’ water needs, and help tribes develop and use their water appropriately.  As we seek our fair share of water allocation, we must consider what continued opportunities are available to us as owners of this valuable resource.”



"The future of health care for Native Indians is intertwined with policy decisions at the federal level and changes in mainstream health care management.  We must continue to provide a full range of health services to tribal members.”


Fire Protection:

"We must commit ourselves to protecting the health and safety of the people living on and visiting reservations.  We must seek out resources to assure delivery of the services and assistance that people need. Together we can make positive improvements for the betterment of the department and those on the reservation.”



"For too many Native Americans, the dream of a college education is either a crippling burden or just that – a far away dream.  We must commit ourselves to making college education more accessible than ever before and seek out new funding sources and expand our educational programs at all levels, from youth to adult.”


Tribal Member/Reservation Resources:

“The most basic responsibility of tribal leaders is to provide a variety of social, governmental, administrative, educational, health and welfare services for tribal members. Over the years Native Americans have made progress in these areas, but there is much more to be done. We need to continue to dedicate ourselves to improving the quality of life of all of our members.”