Ned Norris Jr., who was elected vice chairman of the Tohono O'odham Nation in 2003, is stepping down from his post.

Chairwoman Vivian Juan-Saunders, his former running mate, on Tuesday released a statement lauding Norris' contributions.

"His passion and energy on behalf of the Nation played a major role in many of the positive changes we have made over the past three years," she said.

"While he will be missed, our office is committed to continuing to provide strong and positive representation for the members of the Tohono O'odham Nation."

The statement cited personal reasons for Norris' resignation, which is effective July 28. He is not expected to be replaced until next year's May election, according to the tribal executive office.

Norris could not be reached to comment. In the same statement, he is quoted as saying he is honored to have served the tribe, and that he intends "to continue to work for the Nation in a capacity that will allow me to continue to serve my family and the O'odham community."

Some who knows Norris, who also has worked as a tribal judge and casino executive, said he has sought to improve the community on as well as off the reservation.

Lorraine Lee, vice president of Chicanos Por La Causa, a community development group, said Norris has provided valuable leadership as a board member of the nonprofit organization for several years.

"He has always exemplified that idea of giving back to the community," she said.

In February, Norris was among seven individuals and two organizations who received the Ms. Rosa Parks Living History Makers Awards for community service. It was the first joint award from the Tucson chapter of the NAACP and the state chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens.

"He's been an excellent supporter of many community programs," NAACP chapter President Clarence Boykins said Tuesday. "I'm sure his resignation is a huge loss for the Nation."

Contact reporter Lourdes Medrano at or (520) 573-4347.