Goldbelt shareholders oust two board members in election

The cover design of Goldbelt Inc.’s 2016 annual report was inspired by the late Clarissa Rizal, a Goldbelt shareholder and weaver. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

Two longtime board members of Juneau’s urban Alaska Native corporation board have been ousted through elections at an annual shareholder meeting on Saturday.

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Goldbelt Inc. announced Monday that Lori Grant and Leilani Wilson Walkush will replace Joseph Kahklen and Randy Wanamaker on the nine-member board.

A third member up for re-election, Andrea Cadiente-Laiti, retained her board seat.

Randy Wanamaker had served on the board for 24 years. He said he thinks the election results reflected confusion among shareholders about the company’s finances and cultural contributions.

“Some of the candidates were talking about how Goldbelt is losing money, and it’s not profitable,” Wanamaker said. “And that’s highly inaccurate. Goldbelt is not unprofitable. It’s very successful in shareholder hire, and support for culture and scholarship programs,” Wanamaker said. “And somehow, I think people tuned into the inaccurate message.”

The company’s annual reports in recent years do show the company has been profitable and contributes to the programs Wanamaker referred to.

Over the years, Wanamaker and the other outgoing board member, Joseph Kahklen, were party to the creation of the Goldbelt Heritage Foundation and several shareholder programs offering scholarships, internships, even managers’ training.

In fact, one of the new board members, Leilani Wilson Walkush, cited her experience as a Goldbelt intern — “1995, so I guess technically 22 years ago,” she said with a chuckle — as part of why she ran.

She said she wants to bring back to Goldbelt some of the skills and experiences she’s had since then.

Outgoing board chairman Joseph Kahklen also has a long history with Goldbelt. He was its first CEO when it incorporated in 1972, and had served 35 years on the board.

The new board reorganized after the election and selected Ben Coronell as the new chairman. In a news release, Coronell said Goldbelt continues to grow despite uncertainty in the federal, state and local budgets and a down economy. He said while most of the company’s revenue comes from government contracting, it is exploring new business.

The company has more than 3,700 shareholders.