San Juan County Commissioner Kenneth Maryboy has served as a Navajo Nation Council delegate since 2000. He’s now aiming for an even tougher prize: president of the Navajo Nation.
But the race features a crowded field, which includes incumbent president Ben Shelly and former two-term president Joe Shirley Jr.
But Maryboy, a Democrat serving his second term on the county commission, faces an extra obstacle because Navajos in the Utah section of the tribe’s reservation are far outnumbered by those in Arizona and New Mexico — and the tribe has never elected a president from Utah.
“I need all the help I can [get] because I’m up against Arizona and New Mexico,” the 52-year-old Maryboy said.
The Navajo Nation is larger than 10 U.S. states and, according to the tribe, has a population of more than 250,000.
As he entered the presidential race in the past week, Maryboy, brother of former four-term county commissioner Mark Maryboy, pushed some proposals he hopes will gain attention and support throughout the tribe.
For example, he is calling for creation of a tribal secretary of labor who would oversee a tribal division of labor.
The office would focus on solving high unemployment on the reservation, he said, and seek partnerships with organized labor to stretch what he says has been millions in federal funding that has been underutilized. He said organized labor is well known for training programs that could help the tribe.
Maryboy said the new secretary of labor could also help with another of his top goals of bringing economic development to the tribe.
“It is clear from the lack of investment that America’s top companies do not feel confident doing business on the Navajo Nation,” the Bluff resident said in a news release.
The new labor secretary, Maryboy said, would be empowered “to simplify labor issues so that employers have the necessary confidence to invest and develop on the reservation.”
Maryboy also proposes developing a tribal Presidential Road Commission to coordinate efforts for roads and highways on the reservation by the federal government, states, counties and the tribe. “This would dramatically improve interagency communication and allow for much improved service,” his news release said.
Maryboy, has served on the Navajo Council for 14 years, and says he has a strong relationship with other delegates that could help him accomplish his agenda and avoid infighting between tribal branches that he says has occurred in the past.
The Navajo Nation has a primary election scheduled for Aug. 26, with the final election on Nov. 4.