Byron Mallott has held many positions in his 71 years. He was the CEO of the Permanent Fund, the CEO of Sealaska, the president of AFN, and even briefly held the mayor’s seat in both Yakutat and Juneau. He also once held the title of Democratic candidate for governor. That position didn’t last long. A few weeks after the winning the primary, Mallott dropped his campaign and joined the Alaska First Unity Ticket as the candidate for lieutenant governor.
Mallott’s decision to drop his candidacy for governor and join Republican-turned-Independent Bill Walker was met with both support and criticism. When announcing the merger, Walker said he and Mallott would make decisions together. Mallott says some people told him to get that in writing.
“And I said that is just crazy. You have to trust. You have to work together. The offices are constitutionally mandated and their responsibilities are very clear.”
Mallott says he’s ready to fill his role as a senior policy adviser to the governor and as a member of the cabinet, like he did when working as the executive director of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation under Tony Knowles. That’s where he first worked with Bruce Botelho, the then-Attorney General for the state.
“Byron is an incredibly thoughtful person. Very analytical, very principled. And he applies those principles to his problem solving,” Botelho said when asked to describe the candidate he’s worked with for nearly two decades.
Botelho says Mallott values family, community, and a sense of place, and that he knows how to compromise. But Botelho does admit that when Mallott was younger he was known for passionate, explosive feelings.
But “that is not an issue any more,” he said. “And that’s not to say that Byron will not express himself forcefully when he needs to, but it’s not a situation that causes me any pause for concern.”
Bothelo touts Mallott’s leadership skills and experience with finance management as evidence of Mallott’s readiness for the role of lieutenant governor. Mallott himself says he would look at the state’s budget with a critical eye, though it’s the governor’s job to set the budget.
“Every bit of spending the state does should be on the table for careful analysis, for discussion,” he said during Alaska Public Media’s Debate for the State.
He says that’s true of projects that only impact rural Alaska as well.
“It’s important that, at least for me, that if the village of Kwethluk has a bridge project that’s hugely important to that village, that it get the same scrutiny, the same analysis as the bridge across the [Cook] Inlet.”
But Mallott says that doesn’t mean he would increase taxes to raise money for such projects.
“The notion, again, that we can tax our way either to balancing budgets or to prosperity has been shown never to work.”
Mallott’s main role as lieutenant governor, if he wins, will be supervising the Division of Elections. He says he would follow all laws when certifying ballot initiatives, even if he disagrees with them.
“It is there in order to give voters a voice when they believe their voice is not being heard. So, it is a very precious tool in our constitution, but I think it should be very carefully and not often used.”
Mallott is a Tlingit originally from Yakutat. He’s an independent director of Alaska Air Group.