Sealaska Shareholders Face Term-Limits Measure

Sealaska Plaza, the corporation's headquarters.

A group of Sealaska shareholders want to limit the number of terms corporate board members can serve. They say it would bring change to the regional corporation for Alaska Natives with roots in Southeast. But a similar measure three years ago failed.

This year’s measure would limit Sealaska board members to four consecutive terms. But that’s not all.

“Actually, what it will do is reform our board membership,” says Mick Beasley, author of the measure. If it passes, seven of the corporation’s 13 board members would term out.

Beasley is among those who want changes in how Sealaska works operates.

“I’d like us to think about stuff like death benefits (and) birth benefits. I’d like to see some utilization of our natural resources. We’re afraid of our lands,” he says.

Beasley got a term-limits measure on Sealaska’s 2009 shareholder ballot.

It took a stronger stand, allowing only two consecutive terms. And it failed.

About 45 percent of shares cast were in support, while about 48 percent were in opposition.

That might sound close, but it’s not.

Sealaska Vice President and Corporate Secretary Nicole Hallingstad explains.

“The requirement for any shareholder vote that impacts the bylaws of Sealaska Corporation is the standard requiring 50 percent plus one share of all the outstanding vote shares of the corporation,” Hallingstad says.

So the 2009 measure was only supported by about 35 percent of all shares that could be cast.

Sealaska strongly urged shareholders to vote down the two-term measure.

“The first and primary reason was the rapid loss of institutional knowledge and experience that would result from the departure of 11 directors out of a 13-director board that would occur in a three-year period,” she says.

The board has not yet taken a formal position on this year’s term-limits measure. It will be released as part of this year’s proxy ballot.

Shareholders can vote from May 11th to the corporation’s annual meeting June 23rd in Juneau.

Eight candidates are running for five board seats. Incumbents seeking re-election are Angoon’s Albert Kookesh, Juneau’s Joseph Nelson, Haines’ Bill Thomas, Juneau’s Barbara Cadiente-Nelson and Bothell, Washington’s, J. Tate London.

Three independent candidates are also seeking board seats: Ray Austin of Albuquerque, New Mexico; Will Micklin of Alpine, California, and Edward Sarabia of South Glastonbury, Connecticut.

Sealaska has just over 21,000 shareholders.

Hear a report about the previous term-limits vote.

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Ed Schoenfeld is Regional News Director for CoastAlaska, a consortium of public radio stations in Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, Petersburg and Wrangell. He primarily covers Southeast Alaska regional topics, including the state ferry system, transboundary mining, the Tongass National Forest and Native corporations and issues. He has also worked as a manager, editor and reporter for the Juneau Empire newspaper and Juneau public radio station KTOO. He’s also reported for commercial station KINY in Juneau and public stations KPFA in Berkley, WYSO in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and WUHY in Philadelphia. He’s lived in Alaska since 1979 and is a contributor to Alaska Public Radio Network newscasts, the Northwest (Public Radio) News Network and National Native News. He is a board member of the Alaska Press Club. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, he lives in Douglas.