Business slate challenges Sealaska incumbents

The Sealaska building in Juneau.
Sealaska Plaza in Juneau is the regional Native corporation’s headquarters. (Heather Bryant/KTOO)

A slate of shareholders with business backgrounds is trying to unseat four incumbents on Sealaska’s board of directors.

Margaret Nelson, Carlton Smith, Ross Soboleff and Karen Taug announced their candidacies on Wednesday.

They call their slate “4 Shareholders for Sealaska.”

Spokesman Randy Wanamaker says the candidates are worried about Sealaska’s poor performance.

“With the information that the last dividend was not really based on Sealaska’s earnings, perhaps it’s time for new ideas and new energy, new talent to provide their expertise to the company,” he says, “to move the company toward profitability.”

Smith serves on the Juneau Assembly and runs a commercial real estate company. Taug is controller for the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium. Ross Soboleff is a former Sealaska spokesman and Margaret Nelson is business development manager for a construction company.

Wanamaker says they support term limits for Sealaska board members.

“It ensures that there’s always a continuous flow of new ideas into the company and new energy. And we bring in new experience,” he says.

The challengers also want to link executive bonuses to business success. They say they will pay more attention to shareholder suggestions.

Only four incumbents on the regional Native corporation’s 13-member board are up for re-election.

Byron Mallott is a former Sealaska CEO, who is running for governor. Rosita Worl heads up the Sealaska Heritage Institute. Ed Thomas spent nearly three decades as president of the Central Council Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. Sidney Edenshaw is a director of Haida Corporation based in Hydaburg.

Other independent candidates have indicated they will run. Incumbents are usually challenged, but few coordinate their campaigns or run as a slate.

Sealaska spokeswoman Nicole Hallingstad says corporate law keeps her from commenting on the slate before ballots become available, but it’s well within tradition.

“This independent proxy is an example of shareholders who are exercising their rights as shareholders as set forth by the state of Alaska and Sealaska’s own bylaws,” she says.

Proxy ballots will go to the corporation’s almost 22,000 shareholders on May 15th.

Election results will be announced at Sealaska’s June 28 annual meeting in Seattle.

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