Pay for Navajo Prez Has Not Changed in 30 Years

Navajo Times | Donovan Quintero
President Russell Begaye confers with Vice President Jonathan Nez during the opening few days of the Navajo Nation Council’s spring session. The salary for the president and vice president of the Navajo Nation have not changed in 30 years.

Published April 22, 2018

WINDOW ROCK As candidates begin to campaign for the job of Navajo Nation president, the salary they will get if they win has not changed in the past 30 years. This may be one of the few salaries of any elected official in the United States that has not been increased in three decades.

The $55,000 annual salary would have to be increased to $117,400 to reach the same buying power it had in 1988, according to

And the situation is even worse for the vice president, whose annual salary of $45,000 a year is also 30 years old and is comparable to that of an average teacher with four years of experience.

But candidates running for the position, as well as the current and a former president don’t seem to mind the salary, saying basically they ran for the position to provide service to the Navajo people and not for the money. “I was able to live on $55,000 a year,” said Ben Shelly, who was president of the nation from 2011 to 2015.

He pointed out that as president his family was given a rent-free house and use of a tribal vehicle as well as a few other perks. The president also gets deferred compensation, which amounts to 20 percent of his salary. This is deposited in his account bi-weekly so it gathers interest.

This provides the president a lump payment when he or she leaves office of about $50,000 after a four-year term and more than $110,000 after an eight-year term.

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the Navajo Times. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

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