GRIC’s First Ombudsman Brings a ‘Spirit of Listening’ for Community and Government

Kyle Knox

Gila River Indian News


Kenneth Young has started his work as the first official Ombudsman for the Gila River Indian Community. Though the position is a new one, Young – first appointed in May – has a history of working in various roles in the Community. As Ombudsman, Young says he hopes to help members access public services efficiently and in a timely manner, while strengthening the Community as a whole.


“My hope is for the Community to understand that I am working in the Community as a guest, to serve and help reach conclusions for matters that are of concern to them,” said Young. 


In most organizations, the ombudsman’s role involves addressing concerns from the public, including complaints and grievances, while working to assess and improve services available to constituents. The Ombudsman also investigates complaints against departments and programs and ensures that ethical violations are addressed. 


For Young, his scope includes all GRIC departments within the Office of the Community Manager. He is tasked with providing an impartial view of all grievances that come to his office. 


His role includes providing safeguards and what he calls a “spirit of listening” where he creates a safe and confidential environment for community members to voice their concerns and to address all matters professionally and promptly.


While the role is still new and under development, Young says his goals include helping Community members understand what the ombudsman is and the services the Office can provide. 


“I feel it’s my duty to present myself,” said Young, “to show my face to everyone, so they understand my role.” 


While this new role is complex, Young believes his work history in the Community will help him as he navigates the challenges ahead. Before the ombudsman position, Young worked at both Gila Crossing and Casa Blanca Community Schools in various roles.


During that time, he says he grew to admire the Community’s sovereignty. He cites the Community’s years-long pursuit of its water rights settlement as a testament to that sovereignty. 


“To have your own government and services, with identity embedded in that is very unique and powerful,” said Young, “I’m happy to be here and to be a part of it.”