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More than 100 officials take the oath of office for chapter governments in the Navajo Nation's Northern Agency

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SHIPROCK — More than 100 elected officials today took the oath of office for chapter governments in the Northern Agency.

Navajo Nation Supreme Court Associate Justice Eleanor Shirley administered the oath of office during a ceremony at the Phil L. Thomas Performing Arts Center.

Officials, who were seated on stage, were each introduced. After each name was announced, family and community members applauded and cheered.

The first group to take the oath was chapter presidents. They were followed by vice presidents, secretary-treasurers, district grazing committee members, farm board members and school board members. Also taking the oath of office were the three officials elected under the Tooh Haltsooí Council of Naataanii.

Sammy Ahkeah was the last elected official to be sworn in as a member of the Navajo Board of Election Supervisors.

San Juan Chapter President Rick Nez was among the officials who were re-elected in November's election. He will serve his third term in office.

"It's a good thing to serve the community," Nez said in an interview after the ceremony.

His advice to new officials was to read and study the section of tribal law that outlines the purposes of chapter governments and the authorities of chapter officials. It also helps to have an understanding of the five management system under the Local Governance Act, Nez said.

Navajo Nation Council Speaker LoRenzo Bates gave the keynote address at the ceremony. He told the officials the world of politics is filled with differences and compromises.

"You'll have your differences, but at the end of the day, you got to be able to sit down," he said.

The speaker said community members believe in the leaders they elect and they believe they can change the community. He said challenges and improvements start at the local level, and, to achieve change, officials in different levels of government, including county and state, must work together.

"When you thought about running, your intent was to make a difference," Bates said.

Bates also highlighted accomplishments by officials representing chapter governments that have been certified under the Local Governance Act. He said 12 of the Northern Agency's 20 chapters have been certified and urged those that are not certified to seek the designation because "it provides opportunities."

"Recognize your roles, recognize your responsibilities, form those partnerships," Bates said as his final piece of advice.

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye also shared insight for being a leader. The president said a good leader knows the people he or she represents and a great leader looks out for the next generation.

He cautioned the leaders at today's ceremony to think about the future.

"What's your vision, what's your dream? … All of you ran because you have hope," Begaye said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached 505-564-4636.

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