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Winslow elects Roberta "Birdie" Wilcox Cano as first-ever Native American mayor

Roberta Wilcox Cano
Posted at 4:26 PM, Dec 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-03 12:18:43-05

WINSLOW, AZ — The city of Winslow has made history by electing the first-ever Native American mayor.

Roberta Wilcox Cano, known as "Birdie," was born and raised in Winslow. Half Native American and half White, she brings a new perspective to city leadership.

"I feel like I've had connections with every facet of Winslow," she said.

Cano worked as a corrections officer for 17 years before working for the city. She worked her way up and realized if she wanted to see her hometown improve, she had to be part of the solution.

Winslow has a population of about 10,000 people. According to the 2010 Census data, 38% are White, 36% are Hispanic and 35% are Native American.

Cano said she's close to all those communities and will work to represent their needs. "Once they see that you are willing to move things forward for that group, they'll invest in you."

She plans to reach out to the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe to address problems including homelessness, addiction and a strained relationship with law enforcement.

"I think that it's just maybe forgotten or maybe not appreciated so much by people who are not of that culture. That don't recognize the importance that they have on our economy and just our existence," Cano said.

Winslow made national headlines in March 2016 when a 27-year-old Navajo mother, Loreal Tsingine, was shot to death by a white Winslow police officer.

Cano's husband, now a lieutenant with the Winslow Police Department, was one of the officers on scene.

Cano said tensions still exist, but with new police leadership, officers have changed the way they respond to certain situations. She said things have improved.

Because of her close relationship with the department and the community, Cano said she is in a good position to make sure people are being treated fairly.

"I feel like I'm a mediator in that sense, where a lot of people feel comfortable to come to tell me telling me things they feel are wrong. And in turn, I can facilitate both sides and hopefully come out with the best resolution for the police force and the community," she said.

Cano hopes her historic win will inspire others to be proud of their city and work to make it better. She hopes a younger generation of diverse leaders will follow in her footsteps.

"So if everyone buys into that and they know what they're capable of, it absolutely could be unstoppable," she said. "I just feel like we're at the cusp of greatness."

Cano will be sworn in on December 8.