Two candidates vie for San Juan County clerk

Republican Tanya Shelby and Democrat Zachariah George are running for the seat

Leigh Black Irvin

FARMINGTON — Two candidates with varying levels of experience are vying for the position of San Juan County clerk.

Republican Tanya Shelby and Democrat Zachariah George are both running for the seat in next month's election.

Shelby, 42, said her experience qualifies her for the post. She has worked for the San Juan County Clerk’s office in various capacities for the past 23 years and currently serves as the deputy clerk. She also worked for a title company from 1992 to 1995, gaining experience in title searches.

Tanya Shelby

Shelby has earned a Certified Election Registration Administration designation from Auburn University, which is an important certification, she said, because elections are a vital part of the county clerk’s duties.

"We are also required to attend election schools before each primary and general election, mainly to update us on the changes," she said.

This marks George's first foray into public office. The 22-year-old said he worked as an executive assistant and then staff director for the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President from 2010 to 2013.

He also worked with former Farmington Assistant City Manager Bob Campbell from 2012 to 2014 as a member of the Public Relations Commission and the Community Relations Commission and spent six month as assistant manager for the White Rock chapter.

"I feel I’m qualified not only because the Republican Party has been running the government for decades, but also because I’m bilingual," said George, who speaks Navajo and some Spanish. "That’s where I feel I can assist people more."

Shelby said her main goal for running for the seat is to continue the direction the office has taken during the current administration.

"My campaign slogan is 'Continue the excellence,' and that’s what I want to do, continue moving forward, keep the continuity," she said. "Our records are so important. We’re responsible for helping people find documents from sometimes 50, 80 years ago."

Zachariah George

She added that clerks have "a huge responsibility," adding that "all of the changes coming up after these elections will pose challenges for our office."

Shelby said she is proud of the 34 voting convenience centers her office set up around the county starting in 2012. But, she said, she would like to look at establishing another early voting location in Farmington because voters often bottleneck at the Farmington Museum, the only early voting site in the city.

George said he wants to increase residents' access to polling locations in an effort to increase voter turnout.

"There are a lot of Navajos on the reservation who have to drive an hour to come in to vote,” said George. "I would also like to put a voting location at San Juan College, because that’s where a lot of the younger voters are."

Known as "Mr. Navajo" on the reservation, George often gives motivational speeches at schools about the importance of retaining Navajo culture and language.

"I know I’m young, but experience should count," he said. "I’m willing to learn and work with others because in the Navajo culture, it’s not, 'I did it,' it's 'We did it as a team.'"

Leigh Black Irvin is the business editor for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4621.