President's chief of staff plans to resign

By Bill Donovan
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, September 20, 2012

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S herrick Roanhorse, who has been chief of staff for the President's and Vice-President's office since day one of the Ben Shelly administration, announced his resignation Wednesday.

Roanhorse, in a telephone interview, said he planned to turn in his resignation that afternoon, to be effective on Friday.

When asked if he was leaving on his own or through a directive, he said "a little of both."

He said he expects that Gabriel Freeland, a Navajo businessman who has worked to promote Shelly's wind project in the western portion of the reservation, will be the new chief of staff.

The word from the tribal government on Wednesday is that everything right now is unofficial.

"Sherrick Roanhorse is still chief of staff," said Erny Zah, director of communications for the president's and vice-president's office.

Zah said he and other staff members were still following directives given by Roanhorse. "We were continuing to receive directives from him as late as this morning," he said, adding that he has received no word from either Shelly or Vice-President Rex Lee Jim about any change in the chief of staff position.

"Until there is an official announcement, Sherrick is still chief of staff," he said.

Staffers in the president's office were all wondering on Wednesday what was going on and whether the appointment of a new chief of staff would mean any changes in the way the president's office staff operated.

Roanhorse was praised by staffers for the way he managed the office, allowing staffers the freedom to pursue projects on their own without fear of being micro-managed.

"He is very goal oriented," one staffer said, adding that one of the things that he liked about working for Roanhorse was that he would listen to suggestions and new ways to approach old problems.

He also seemed to have the respect and support of Shelly, especially in the early months of his administration when a number of council delegates were critical of Shelly for appointing someone just a couple of years out of college for that important of a position.

But Roanhorse had worked for Shelly when he was vice-president and the two had worked so well together that Shelly said he wanted to continue the relationship when he moved up to president.

In an interview on Wednesday, Roanhorse said he was glad to have the opportunity to work with Shelly and Jim and to work with him to bring "transparency and prosperity" to the Navajo people.

He said he as he conducted the business of chief of staff, he was guided by the "humble teachings" of his family who drilled into him certain values and principles.

He said he also appreciated the opportunity Shelly and Jim gave him to use his skills on behalf of the Navajo people.

"I learned a lot from Shelly and Jim," he said. "I realize that the Navajo people still have a lot of challenges before us but we are a strong and resilient people."

He said he leaves the Shelly administration with a lot of respect for the work Shelly and Jim have done so far in their administration to help their people.

"He has always been up front with the Navajo people," he said, adding that one of the principles that Shelly instill in him and other staff members was to take their lead from the Navajo people.

"We held a lot of town meetings and went to a lot of chapter meetings and listened to the people," he said, "and translated their words into policy and proposed legislation."

Roanhorse said he is still looking over his options with the idea that he may possibly go back to school in the near future.

As for Freeland, no one in the administration is giving any strong indication that he will be the next chief of staff, although a couple of staffers said they would not be surprised given the fact that the philosophy of both Shelly and Freeland seem to be aligned on a number of key issues within the Shelly-Jim administration, including the importance of wind energy and business development.

Freeland is president and chief executive officer for Spektrum, Inc., a company that acts as a consultant to International Piping Products, which is developing the wind farm project.

On his business card, Freeland said his company provides a number of services, including political consulting, political analysis, organizational development, system improvement, entertainment production, promotion and management, public relations, and work with renewable technology, communications and right-of-way acquisitions and development.

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