Flagstaff, AZ – Ben Shelly was sworn in as the newest president of the Navajo Nation yesterday, along with a much smaller tribal council. Arizona Public Radio's Daniel Kraker reports.
Ben Shelly is the former Navajo vice president. He succeeds Joe Shirley Junior, who served two four-year terms. Shelly promised to improve infrastructure on the vast reservation, including roads and water systems. He also said he would promote renewable energy projects.
Shelly took office with criminal charges against him and many other lawmakers still unresolved. He's agreed to repay discretionary funding he's accused of giving to relatives, in exchange for having the charges dropped. He addressed the issue indirectly during his inaugural speech:
"Through all my 30 years of public service, I have seen what I did wrong, what we need to correct, and that's what I'm all about."
A new 24 member tribal council was also sworn in yesterday. The Navajo people voted last year to drastically reduce the council's size from 88 delegates. Shelly alluded to the conflict that caused between the past council and former president Joe Shirley, who pushed for the reform.
"Navajo people, the crisis is over, it's over, we need to start reforming our government, am I correct in that, 24 council delegates, are we going to do it, are we going to work on our government for the betterment of our people!"
Shelly also echoed the current political climate in Washington, by saying he wants more business on the reservation, and less government.