Nez names choice to lead social services division

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
Deannah Neswood-Gishey

FARMINGTON — A seasoned tribal employee and military veteran has been picked to lead the Navajo Nation Division of Social Services.

Deannah Neswood-Gishey was named the division's executive director on April 5 by tribal President Jonathan Nez.

Neswood-Gishey currently serves as program manager for the Navajo Nation Department for Self Reliance, the agency that oversees the tribe's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program.

The department is an entity under the Division of Social Services, where she has worked in various capacities for more than 20 years.

"We selected Mrs. Neswood-Gishey based on her 20-plus years of social work experience and she has a lot to offer in terms of ideas and solutions to make the Division of Social Services more effective," Nez said.

Neswood-Gishey earned a bachelor's degree in social work from Arizona State University in 1993, a master's degree in social work from New Mexico Highlands University in 2000 and has been a licensed master social worker in New Mexico since 2004.

She is a U.S. Army and Arizona Army National Guard veteran.

Neswood-Gishey said in a telephone interview today she worked in various levels of social work before rising to manager and those experiences are assets she will use when she starts overseeing the division on April 22.

"I know a lot of the people, I know the programs. I think it was helpful for me to have an array of knowledge in all of the departments within Division of Social Services," she said.

Her discipline comes from her military experience while her call to public service is from her late mother, Marie Roanhorse Neswood, who was the first woman to serve as a judge in the Navajo Nation court system.

The bill to confirm Neswood-Gishey was introduced last week, in addition to a separate bill to confirm Oliver B. Whaley as director of the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency.

Nez appointed Whaley in January.

The president's choices are subject to confirmation by the Navajo Nation Council.

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