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12/17/2013 10:30:00 AM
Abasta steps in as new Navajo Nation communications director
Rick Abasta is the new Navajo Nation communications director. Submitted photo
Rick Abasta is the new Navajo Nation communications director. Submitted photo
Katherine Locke
Reporter

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - Rick Abasta is the new communications director for the president and vice president's office on the Navajo Nation, taking over for Erny Zah who recently resigned from the position.

"I take this responsibility seriously and I see much potential in taking a proactive multimedia approach to sharing news with the local, regional and national media outlets," Abasta said. "In today's 24 hours a day news cycle, it is easy for some outlets to employ sensationalism in place of facts for the purpose of selling more papers. We must ensure that the truth is still the focus of news from the Navajo Nation."

Abasta has worked for the Navajo Nation since 1994 when he started as an office clerk for the Office of Management and Budget. Since then, he worked as a reporter and advertising manager for the Navajo Times. He also worked in editorial and advertising at other newspapers including the Char-Koosta News, Native American Times, Phoenix New Times and the Arizona Republic. He worked in a public relations capacity for the Navajo Housing Authority, Navajo Parks and Recreation Department, the Division of Community Development and the Navajo Division of Transportation.

"Seeing the ins and outs of these organizations gave me important experience in the various facets of tribal government," Abasta said.

He said he applied for the job as communications director when Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly was first elected into office. This is the third time he applied for the job.

"I was finally blessed with the opportunity," Abasta said, speaking of his appointment. "I am humbled and grateful for the chance the Shelly-Jim administration has given me."

Abasta said he believes the communications director position is an important one because he is now the spokesman for the Nation and for Shelly. Providing fair and accurate information is the main function. He wants to work with other executive branch divisions and departments to share positive news about the Nation. Abasta named efforts in transportation, gaming, health and infrastructure development as a few that are doing positive work.

"A lot of these divisions and departments do not have a public information officer on staff, but they are completing tremendous tasks that need to be shared with our stakeholders and the general public," Abasta said.

He said it is also his responsibility to communicate with Navajo people who have left the reservation about opportunities in education, employment, housing or other reasons.

"They are still eligible voting members of the Navajo Nation and their thoughts and concerns are equally important," Abasta said.

He said he will engage with these members of the Nation through social media and traditional methods such as print and radio.

"Reaching out to this contingent and others is inherently a part of the job of communication director," Abasta said. "Of course, our biggest focus will always be reaching out to tribal members living on the Navajo Nation at the chapter level. The chapters are the most important unit of tribal government because it is at the chapter level that everything starts."

Abasta grew up in the Window Rock area and was raised in St. Michaels, Ariz. by his mom, Ellamae K. Betsoi. He is the proud father of two sons, Taylor, 14, and Logan, 9.


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