By Brian Powell
When one talks with Stuart Noggle about his hometown of Sanders, it is obvious how dedicated he is to the future of rural northeastern Arizona.
Noggle is a multifaceted leader in his community. He holds public office and is running for a new position this fall. He has worked to inspire students and teachers at the Sanders Unified School District and was named the 2012 Apache County Teacher of the Year for his efforts. Noggle runs an organization to benefit local youth, serves as an information-technology consultant, and has promoted positive developments in and around Sanders.
“My brand is already the ‘community guy.’ I love this place and people know it,” Noggle says.
Last year, Noggle became a Fellow in the Flinn-Brown Civic Leadership Academy, which was launched by the Flinn Foundation in 2010 to help develop state-level civic leaders. Noggle drove 500 miles roundtrip seven times to participate in the Flinn-Brown seminar series.
Noggle says he was impressed with the Fellows and how people with different political views had positive conversations and were comfortable working alongside one another.
“People have to try to change things positively, or you can simply say the whole thing is corrupt and not be engaged,” Noggle says. “I realize I want to be engaged, and that is what the program did for me.”
Noggle has served on the board of directors of the Northern Apache County Special Health Care District since being appointed in 2013. The district is a nonprofit organization promoting health through the operation of two patient-centered clinics, including one in Sanders.
In November, he will stand for election to the Puerco Valley Fire District Governing Board. Noggle says he is considering a run for the Arizona Legislature in a future election.
Sanders is a town of about 600 people in northeastern Arizona, off Interstate 40 between Holbrook and Gallup, N.M. The Apache County town borders the Navajo Nation and has only a few businesses and limited employment opportunities. Uranium has been present in the drinking water in town for about two decades, making the need for safe drinking water one of the issues Noggle says must be addressed.
Noggle, whose mother is Navajo, feels his identity can help bridge the native and non-native communities together.
“I’m seen as a peacemaker and that’s a big part of my passion,” Noggle says. “Also, part of my leadership style is not complaining about what we do not have, but finding ways to use what we do have.”
After graduating from Valley High School in Sanders, he majored in theology at Bob Jones University in South Carolina before deciding to return to Arizona.
Since then, he has worked as a graphic-design instructor, technology coach, and instructional coach with the Sanders Unified School District, Sanders Elementary School, and Valley High School. He runs the Sanders Area Community Facebook page and a website promoting area news and events. He also founded the organization Monster Slayers to help Navajo youth combat alcoholism, domestic violence, and poverty.
As a graphic-design teacher, he linked his students with small businesses that needed design work. He has promoted entrepreneurship among youth and says the ability to start online companies has opened up new opportunities for people in the state’s rural areas.
The school district in which Noggle serves attracts students from as far as 50 miles away. Most are bussed in, and the majority live on dirt roads, many in inadequate housing. Yet students who spent two years in his design class performed admirably on state assessment tests—one reason for his teaching award, he says.
In his current role as a high-school instructional coach, he trains and mentors teachers.
“It’s more of a behind-the-scenes leadership role. It’s about inspiring people to be their best,” Noggle says.
By Brian Powell