WASHINGTON ? There may soon be another voice from Indian country on Capitol Hill.
Derrick Watchman (Navajo) is seeking the Democratic Party nomination for the newly created 1st Congressional District in Arizona. Watchman, 39, was born in Flagstaff but raised on the Navajo Reservation near Window Rock, capital of the Navajo Nation.
Watchman has over 10 years of public service experience and a long private sector resume. He served as Director of Indian Affairs at the Department of Energy under former Secretary Bill Richardson.
Watchman said that he decided to run to help bring the diverse population together in meeting its concerns, for instance in consultations over water.
"We're in separate corners not willing to discuss water issues," said Watchman. "I feel that I can form groups ? pathways ? to get issues resolved. I know how the federal government works, I know how tribal government works and it has to be a policy that we need true consultation."
He said that another issue that is impacting northern Arizona is a decline in tourism because of the recession. The groups need to get together and force Washington to create a tourism entity to protect this vital regional asset, he said.
"I grew up my entire life on the reservation," said Watchman, arguing that his candidacy was different from all the others, even in his own party. "I know what reservation life is like, but at the same time I am able to represent the (Navajo) Nation and the cities and towns. That, I believe, makes me unique."
He added that federal agencies and the Washington establishment have very limited knowledge of Indian country. This gap in the knowledge of many congressmen puts them and their staffers on a steep learning curve.
"I can get to Washington and basically hit the road running," said a motivated Watchman. He said his positions at the DOE and the Navajo Nation have kept him up to date on the issues facing Indian country.
"I've lived it. I've breathed it," said Watchman. "A congressman should reflect and come from the area they represent. How can you represent an area you haven't lived in?"
Watchman said he felt that growing up in a small reservation town and doing what he has done has allowed him to stand as a positive example for younger Indian men.
"I think there is a place for younger people to work in our tribal governments," said Watchman. "The elders, our leaders, are growing older and we have this gap." He said he hopes that his work in and out of Indian country will help increase the number of younger Indian people working to protect tribal sovereignty, culture, and economic viability.
Watchman has served the Navajo Nation as chief of staff, as general manager of the Dine Power Authority, executive director of the Navajo Tax Commission and as a budget and evaluation analyst.
He interned at the Nation's Economic and Finance Division.
His private sector resume is equally impressive. He worked for Prudential Capital Corp. as an investment manager, Wells Fargo Bank as an assistant vice president and as a management advisor at his own company, Derrick B. Watchman Consulting in Window Rock.
Watchman also maintains cattle, sheep and horses at his family ranch. He also holds a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of California, Berkeley.
Watchman and his wife Cheron have two children, Michael and Monica.