Letter: Higher pay would attract strong leaders for Dineh Nation

To the editor:

The way the Dineh Nation compensates its president and vice president is in need of major reform, so much it underscores the importance of providing salaries generous enough in that we will be able to encourage outstanding Navajo candidates to consider seeking the highest offices.

There was once a time when the Dineh Nation was a leader in major areas including negotiating water rights, but we have fallen far behind. It seems natural for people to believe things will always remain the same.

I submit if we had stronger leaders it would set the bar higher and cause the Dineh Nation Council and the entire tribal government to raise their performances to a level that they will be challenged to keep up with the president and vice president. There's a difference between real, principled leadership with careful managerial skills.

Presently, the president receives a base salary of $55,000 and the vice president $50,000. I do not believe we can continue to offer a very low pay for the two highest offices, and expect that we will be able to attract quality Navajo candidates who could completely transform the Navajo Nation government into a well-run system. We have to have some sort of balance in that equation.

It is understandable we walk a fine line between providing a salary that can attract talented public servants and acknowledging public cynicism about leaders' pay. To achieve that balance, delegates over the years have added financial benefits beyond their salaries - items like perdiem payments and committee allowances.

Such a convoluted system is not ideal particularly when it is not working to our best interest. It's not easy to raise pay, but not doing so would encourages delegates to do things where they treat themselves differently and it looks bad. It'd be a lot better if we just did a straight salary adjustment starting with the president's and vice president's compensation packages.

The trust test of whether the president's and vice president's pay is reasonable and would be to do a comparison to other tribes. I would suggest we rank below many of our neighboring tribes regardless of size and scope involved.

I personally would like to see us begin a petition to bring this type of advancement as part of our government reform initiatives and thus initiate a process for electing highly qualified leaders to the highest offices.

Wallace Hanley

Window Rock, Ariz.

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