For decades, the Navajo Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant, was one of the only sources of steady employment across a vast swath of northern Arizona. In recent years, the plant’s looming shutdown has made jobs even more scarce; last year the plant finally announced it would begin shutting down after 2019.
Lena Fowler, who is serving her third term on the Coconino County Board of Supervisors, has made it her top priority to ease the impact of the plant closure on her constituents. Coconino is the nation’s second-largest county by area, and Fowler represents an especially isolated part along the Utah border. She has worked with local colleges to retrain residents for careers outside the energy sector. And she created the Northern Arizona Outlook Initiative to address long-term economic sustainability. She has also been a leading advocate for cleaning up the decommissioned uranium extraction sites that litter northern Arizona.
“A lot of the issues I work with are issues that are important to Navajo,” says Fowler, who is herself a member of the Navajo Nation. “But I am representing all people, because all my constituents need to be represented.”