Commission chairman reflects on 8-year tenure

Noel Lyn Smith
David L. John says his eight years as chairman of the city's Community Relations Commission were a challenge.

FARMINGTON – After serving eight years as chairman of the city's Community Relations Commission, David L. John has stepped away from the seat.

John was among the first eight individuals appointed to the commission in April 2008 by then-Mayor Bill Standley.

The commission was created to address racial issues by setting the standards for positive human relations within the city. Members also handle race- or culture-related complaints, develop education programs and facilitate mediation services for incidents of alleged discrimination.

Throughout the years, John has led the commission to establish programs that recognize cultural events and conduct annual cultural awareness training for businesses, and collaborated with the Farmington Police Department to start the Comprehensive Homeless Assistance Providers.

The commission worked closely with Standley and Mayor Tommy Roberts to enter into a memorandum of agreement on human rights and race relations with the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission in 2010.

"It's been a challenge," John said about his tenure as chairman in an interview Friday.

Although he is no longer leading the commission, John will remain a member until April 2017. He decided not to seek another term in the top position because it was time for new leadership to "step up and continue the mission."

"Since the commission was established, we went through a lot of pros and cons. We have had complaints filed with us that we resolved," John said.

Even though the number of complaints has decreased, John acknowledged that situations between individuals that require the commission's attention continue. During his chairmanship, he said, 15 complaints were investigated and resolved by the commission.

If the commission finds a complaint does not demonstrate discrimination, it refers the issue to entities such as the Better Business Bureau or the state's Department of Workforce Solutions, he said.

A certificate of appreciation was presented to David L. John last month by the City Council to commemorate his eight years of service as the chairman of the Community Relations Commission.

John's service was honored last month when city officials presented him with a plaque during a City Council meeting.

"It's a surprise," John said.

Last month, commission members selected Melissa Meechan as the new chairwoman. Meechan has been on the commission since April 2014.

"She's a great person ... she's done a great job already," John said.

Meechan said Friday she looks up to John for his leadership. She said she would like to apply the examples set by John during her time leading the organization.

She also said she admires him for his willingness to provide insight into his Navajo culture and the way he remains dedicated to building a better relationship between the Navajo people and the city.

"He is very open about his Native culture," Meechan said.

Lynn Love is continuing his service as vice chairman of the commission. In an interview Friday, Love said one of the commission's current areas of focus is the Civility First Four Corners project, which promotes the traits of civility by recognizing and promoting healthy relationships.

"We felt that it's time to take part of the message to the community. …We look at each other as family here in the Four Corners area, and we will continue to do the work to better the situations in life for everyone who comes into Farmington," he said.

David L. John says he decided not to seek another term as chairman of the city's Community Relations Commission because he felt like it was time for new leadership.

Love described John as "a strong leader."

"He has a vision. He has been diverse in his thinking, and he has encouraged each one of us," he said.

John has lived in Farmington since 1971 and has owned a number of businesses in the city.

In addition to the commission, he serves on boards that focus on business, health and the Navajo Nation. He is also the vice president of the Navajo Nation's Mexican Water Chapter in Arizona.

"I'm a believer (in) communication with different people," John said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-546-4636.