There has been some controversy over the last week after the Page City Council voted to name Darby McNutt to the open seat on the council.
Most of the complaints aren’t regarding McNutt specifically. Instead, the concern is the fact he is a white man. The overarching concern is that the council remains one made up of white men. In a community where white men are the minority, I understand why that would be a concern.
In fact, when I first moved here I was quite surprised when I realized the council had no Navajo members and no women. This is the first time I have lived in an area where the majority are Native Americans, so I wasn’t sure what to expect politically from that perspective. But women serving has become the norm around the country, in big and small cities.
While I was surprised and even a little troubled that the council did not seem to represent the community, at least as far as ethnicity, my problem wasn’t with the sitting council members. The men on the council all ran for office, put themselves up for public scrutiny and seemingly do their best for our community.
I don’t always agree with them, but I do respect them for being willing to serve when most of us won’t.
The general idea I have been hearing in recent days is that when given the opportunity, the council should have chosen a Navajo or a woman to serve to add a sense of diversity to the council.
In many ways I agree with that. Government works better when more voices are heard and more views expressed. A Navajo living in Page will have a different perspective than that of most white men. That’s just a fact. A woman will likely have a different perspective as well. Heck, my wife and I agree on a lot, but have different views on many things as well. I make the best decisions for all of us when I hear her opinions and take them into account.
The same could be said for the city council. Personally, I think a Navajo representative is more important. Men may sit on the council, but a woman serves as city manager and women lead most departments in the city. They are smart, talented and work well with the council.
But where I disagree with some of the rumblings in the community is where they say the council should have chosen a Navajo or a woman simply because they are a Navajo or a woman. I think when the council is looking for a new member, one who will have to face the voters to keep their seat, they should choose the best candidate period.
Was Darby McNutt the best candidate? I honestly don’t know. But I don’t believe he should have been thrown out just because of his skin color and gender. The majority of the city council looked at the candidates and thought McNutt was the best fit.
Would I still like to see a Navajo representative and a woman on the council? Absolutely. Personally, I think there should be two or three Navajo members. But to get there, people will have to be willing to run for office, campaign and serve. Last year when that was an option, not one single person — male, female, white or Navajo — chose to challenge the incumbents. If no one will run, nothing will change.
If people choose to run, there could be a big surprise. If the Navajo population in Page registered to vote and went to the polls, they could begin to fill seats on the council. That’s also a fact. But to be represented, they have to take those steps.
Will they? I hope so. In a year, we will elect a new mayor and new members of the council. That would be the right time to take a stand and make a difference.