Mark Maryboy, the first Native American commissioner elected in San Juan County and Utah in 1986, smiles proudly nearby as he awaits the historic oath of office proceedings to start. His brother, Kenneth, is one of three commissioners who will be sworn in that day.
Commissioner Bruce Adams sits two rows back from where Grayeyes is seated, awaiting the same oath of office. Adams is dressed in a black cowboy hat, same as Kenneth Maryboy.
Adams is taking the oath of office along with the two new commissioners, but with one difference: he will be serving a two-year term rather than a four-year term like his colleagues.
San Juan County Clerk John David Nielson starts the proceedings by giving thanks to those in attendance in the commission chambers, which overflow with people eager to watch the first Native American majority county commission in the history of the state take their oath.
Nielson then introduced Judge Lyon W. Hazleton II, who performed the oath of office ceremony for the six public officials.
“Those who have been elected to the positions in this last year for the year 2019,” Hazleton said, “if you’ll please come up in any random order. Please just stand before the audience. There should be some commissioners and a sheriff.”
Hazelton said Kendall Laws, who was elected to the post of County Attorney, was in District Court that morning and would be sworn in later that day.
Greg Adams (Assessor), John David Nielson (Clerk/Auditor), Bruce Adams (Commissioner District 1), Willie Grayeyes (Commissioner District 2), Kenneth Maryboy (Commissioner District 3) and Jason Torgerson (Sheriff) all took their respective oaths of office next to one another as Hazleton swore them in.
After each official stated the office which they have been elected to and their name, Hazleton said, “Do solemnly swear that you will uphold the constitution of the United States of America and the constitution of this great state of Utah. And that you solemnly swear that you will carry out the office and the job of which you have been appointed to or elected to, so help you God.”
The six men all answered in the affirmative and made it official by signing their individual oaths of office.
The three respective commissioners joined together after the oaths of office were taken and talked amongst themselves on county subjects briefly before giving a speech to the crowd who still remained in the chambers.
“I think the commissioners want to thank everybody who came today and supported this,” Commissioner Adams said. “A lot of you traveled a long way on some pretty slick roads. It’s pretty impressive to have everybody show up like you have.
“And so we definitely want to thank everybody who came today. I think Willie and Kenneth would both like to make a statement and thank you themselves, so I’ll just turn some time over to Willie and Kenneth.”
“Your support and my family, to your family, to expressing our appreciation to serve the people, all of them. At a level that will be not compromising to certain groups,” Grayeyes said. “I’m here for it, to serve the people....
“I’m very excited about it, even though I don’t show it sometimes. I grew up in isolation so somebody says, ‘How do you feel about this?’ That’s just like drinking coffee every morning. It’s regular, a little cream or sugar and that’s about it. A lot of people say, ‘Yeah, I’m excited. I could jump through a wall,’ or something like that. It is good, thank you for your support.”
“I am looking forward to working with the two of you [Grayeyes and Adams]. The road up ahead, we really don’t foresee how it will unfold, but we are here to tackle that.
“And good morning to those of you who have shown your support, people of San Juan County. My people, our people, equally, Navajo, Utes, Anglos. I think we foresee that we will do what we can for the people of San Juan County.
“We’re looking forward to making some changes if there is [any] needed. We’re looking forward to develop more if we can and looking forward to having a better collaboration with the Ute Nation and the Navajo Nation as well as our government in Salt
Lake City, the Utah State.
“With that, I would like to thank you and each and every one of you, and all the staff that is here.
“I am sure it is a shock, a culture shock for most of you that we have two Native Americans sitting on the county seat. But nevertheless, we will do what we can to make better lives for those that reside in San Juan County.”
“I’ve served with Kenneth for four years previously, so I have some things I can blackmail him with,” Adams joked. “I’m just kidding. Kenneth was easy to work with. He was willing to listen and willing to do his best to work for the people of San Juan.
“I haven’t had a chance to work with Willie before, although I’ve met him a couple times when I was representing Navajo Mountain.
“I’ve seen him ride a horse, and he’s not bad. I don’t know if I can get him to rope any calves for me at branding time. But I look forward to working with both these guys.
“Willie didn’t get the memo that we’re going to wear our black hats today. I didn’t get the memo to wear my squash blossom. We’re going to do our best to work together and make life better for the citizens of San Juan County.
“I look forward to working with both of these gentlemen and welcome them to the county. I hope they get a chance to meet with all of the county staff and to learn how to interact with those folks to bring appropriate services through the entire county.
“I’m pleased to see so many native people here today. I hope you will be able to speak freely with all three of the commissioners to let us know what your wants and needs are.”