Sitting in on a San Juan County Commission meetings, I didn’t realize how tall Kenneth Maryboy was until I tracked him down after the meeting for an interview.
Although Maryboy may appear physically intimidating at 6’3”, he conducts himself in an almost reverent way, moving with respect and a quietness that may be heavily influenced by his active practice as a Navajo medicine man.
Although Maryboy is not a loud man, he commands attention when he speaks. I stepped back during last commission meeting to see everyone leaning in as he weighed in on a sensitive issue with quiet diplomacy, while maintaining certainty within his own stance.
Navajo residents in San Juan County have a chance for greater representation than ever before, thanks to Commissioner Maryboy, as he has began his campaign for President of the Navajo Nation.
Maryboy is the first Utah Navajo to run for Navajo Nation President. He said in an interview that he made the decision to run about three years ago when he more fully realized the lack of basic services on the Navajo Reservation, especially in Utah and northern Arizona.
He adds that the Navajo Nation has very little infrastructure in Utah.
Maryboy is not a stranger to politics. He has been a delegate for the Navajo Nation Council since 2000 and has gained a lot of experience in those 14 years.
Maryboy served as the Vice Chair of the Navajo Nation Council and has served on the Navajo Economic Development Committee.
Five years ago, in 2009, the council was reduced from 88 to 24 members. Maryboy narrowly defeated a fellow council member for the position on the greatly reduced council.
In addition to Navajo Nation politics, Maryboy has been a member of the San Juan Commission for two terms now, for a total of eight years.
He has served as the chairman of the Utah Tribal Leaders Council and helped lead the Utah Navajo Trust Fund.
He also started the Navajo Santa program, an immensely popular Christmas Eve event that provides gifts and services for up to 700 local residents each year.
In 2002, Maryboy went to Washington, D.C. to receive the Caring Institute Award, an honor previously given to Mother Teresa, President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter, Paul Newman, Senator Bob Dole and Reverend Billy Graham.
The Maryboy name is familiar in San Juan County politics. Kenneth Maryboy’s older brother, Mark Maryboy, made history when he became the first Native American elected as commissioner in the state of Utah. Mark Maryboy won a San Juan Commission seat in 1986.
County Commissioner Bruce Adams saw I was interviewing Maryboy and was sure to tell me that, “Kenneth has my full support.”
Wearing hats for two different governments gives Maryboy a unique perspective and understanding of how to work with different departments towards common goals.
“I’ve picked up a lot from the county commission,” said Maryboy as we talked over the phone while he drove between meetings on the reservation.
Maryboy said that if he is elected Navajo Nation President, he plans to use his experience between the county, state, Navajo Nation, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and other government organizations to further economic development on the reservation.
If elected, Maryboy said he plans to cut waste, appoint a Secretary of Labor, and to promote economic growth within the reservation itself. Read more about his initiatives on his campaign website, kennethmaryboy.com.
Maryboy said he hopes Utah Navajo voters will unite together and make history by electing the first Utah president.
Maryboy is busy visiting agencies across the nation and is participating in a series of debates with the other presidential candidates.
A major debate is scheduled to be held before the primary election in Monument Valley.
Maryboy himself admits that the odds may be stacked against him. He’s one of 17 candidates running for Navajo Nation president. An August 26 primary election will certainly reveal voters wishes.
Maryboy’s opponents include Ben Shelly, the current Navajo Nation president; and Shelly’s predecessor, Joe Shirley, Jr.
The odds may be stacked against him, but who knows? The Maryboy family has been known to make history before.