Bob Scabby went to college with the goal of finding a field that would allow him to help tribes become self-determining and more self-sufficient. He saw how they relied on the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) for its local governance, so he chose the area of public administration to lessen that reliance. When he started working for the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community in 1982, he was comptroller, and he held that position for 13 years. As the Community grew and became more robust, Scabby took a position in the administration as a self-governance coordinator.
Now, as part of his daily responsibilities, he gets to involve himself in any number of issues that pertain to the Community’s business and ensure that the will of its people and of the Council are at the forefront of this process.
“The biggest challenge is keeping the BIA at bay from micromanaging the Community’s business affairs,” Scabby said. He went on to mention the self-governance compact that was designed to transfer Community control over funding and decision-making for federal programs, services, functions and activities formerly administered by the BIA. “I don’t personally keep the BIA at bay, but we have people in the trenches and they know when they’re trying to be micromanaged, so it helps me stay on top of it,” he said.
With 21 programs that provide essential services to the Community members, Scabby realized over time that he could not be in all places at once. He admits that he used to travel quite frequently, but as the Community’s business interests have multiplied, he has become a lot more adept at delegating those responsibilities out to the different departments.
“A lot of times I make arrangements for the best people to be at those negotiations or training sessions,” Scabby said. “If it regards roads, then I make sure that the roads personnel or Engineering and Construction Services are there at those transportation-services meetings. If it has anything to do with real estate, then I make sure the community development staff gets there, as well as the Office of the General Counsel, because there are a lot of legal implications.”
Another key function of Scabby’s job is to be on top of the funding the Community receives for all its programs and services. It is his responsibility to make sure that the tribal government gets reimbursed with federal dollars and that fiscal reports in regard to the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) are in compliance.
Being able to see the Community mature and flourish under self-governance makes Scabby proud to be a part of SRPMIC.
“I’ve been consistent and dedicated to the Community. I’ve had opportunities to go to other jobs, but I’m not the kind of person to jump to greener pastures,” he said. “I enjoy my job here and find fulfillment in my work. The Community has been good to me, and I’ve been good to the Community; it’s been mutually beneficial.”