In January, newly elected Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs announced staff hires for her administration.
Hobbs has made it known that she has made a commitment to foster relationships with tribal nations in the state. This commitment was solidified when she hired Tohono O’odham Nation member Jason Chavez as the tribal affairs director.
Chavez is from the San Miguel Community in the Chukut Kuk District, and he previously served as the elections outreach manager in the Secretary of State’s Office.
Chavez told O’odham Action News that he is deeply honored and excited to serve in the Hobbs Administration, and that the significance of this appointment is not lost on him.
“To have an O’odham in a director position in the governor’s office is a big deal. I am helping to set expectations, make decisions and create policy for the state,” said Chavez. “For me, this is the opportunity of a lifetime, and I feel the weight of responsibility every morning when I walk into the State Capitol. But I also know that I am not alone—I have my family and community behind me.”
Hobbs asked Chavez to revitalize the Office of Tribal Relations and to work with tribal communities across Arizona, the governor’s other policy advisors, and state and federal agencies. This work includes promoting access to economic opportunities for tribes, investing in the next generation of leaders, protecting the right to vote, expanding access to healthcare, protecting water rights, and addressing the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous people.
Chavez said that a career in public service was the natural path for him.
“As O’odham, we are taught to take care of our communities. It is part of our himdag,” he said.
While working for the Secretary of State’s Office, he said the office was exposed to vitriol on an almost daily basis related to its work on elections. Despite the challenging work in public service, Chavez said that he kept going because he knew his work mattered.
During this time, in September 2021, Chavez helped organize the first-ever Tribal Nations Conference hosted by the Secretary of State’s Office. The event brought together representatives from tribal nations and counties to make plans and coordinate for the 2022 statewide election cycle.
He also managed the “unique url” program, which helped organizations conduct electronic voter-registration drives during the time when in-person gatherings were limited due to COVID-19.
With his success and experience in public service, Chavez’s advice to politically motivated Native youth is to dream big.
“Your voice is important, and our people need your leadership in all levels of government: tribal, local, state and federal,” said Chavez. “Study hard, but don’t forget that building relationships and taking care of your community is important too.”