Sealaska shareholders reject election reforms, support settlement trust

Sealaska shareholders have elected two new directors to the Alaska Native corporation’s board.

The Juneau-based regional Native corporation announced on Saturday the addition of Liz Medicine Crow and Vicki Soboleff among the five seats that were up for grabs.

Sealaska Plaza, the corporation's headquarters.
Sealaska Plaza, the corporation’s headquarters. (Photo via KCAW)

Medicine Crow was among the four board-endorsed candidates to be elected. Longtime chair Joe Nelson who has been on the board since 2003 was also reelected.

The other returning incumbents are Barbara Cadiente-Nelson and Nicole Hallingstad, who was elected as an independent in 2018, but added to the board slate this year.

A screenshot of a report showing 2021 Sealaska election results for the corporation’s board. (Sealaska)

Medicine Crow is chief executive of First Alaskans Institute, a nonprofit that aims to advance the interests of Alaska’s Indigenous peoples. She did not respond to requests for comment on Monday.

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Independent candidate elected

Soboleff, an independent, won the second-highest number of votes, according to a tally released by the corporation. She’s a grants coordinator for a Washington state tribal government. Both she and Medicine Crow grew up in and have deep ties to Southeast Alaska. She declined to be interviewed, but released a short statement to CoastAlaska.

“I will not forget the support I have received,” Soboleff wrote, “and I will continue my work for our people.”

Board-endorsed resolution wins, shareholder resolutions fail

A screenshot of a report showing 2021 Sealaska election results for resolutions 1-3. (Sealaska)

The precise count of direct shareholder votes wasn’t publicly released. A shareholder resolution to require more in-depth reporting of results failed, as did a second resolution that would have restricted the practice of allowing the board majority to steer proxy votes toward favored candidates that critics say perpetuates the status quo.

But a board-proposed resolution passed by a majority of votes. It establishes a tax shelter allowing the corporation to pay its dividends. The measure was controversial, with some shareholders saying its language is too vague: There’s nothing to guarantee that payments to shareholders would be equitable.

Sealaska chief executive Anthony Mallott praised the 2021 election.

“We have an excellent combination of fresh perspectives and institutional knowledge on our board, and I am confident the settlement trust will be a great benefit to shareholders,” Mallott wrote in a statement.

Only one candidate endorsed by the board majority wasn’t elected. Sarah Dybdahl of Juneau came in sixth place, according to the vote count released, which reported a turnout of around 64% of shareholders.

Sealaska is a significant economic force in Alaska. It’s one of the original 13 regional corporations established by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, and it has more than 20,000 shareholders whose ancestors have ties to traditional homelands across Southeast Alaska.

Nearly 50 years old, it’s become a major player in real estate, fisheries and commercial services. It reported nearly $700 million in annual revenue with more than $55 million in net profits last year, according to its most recent annual report.

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Jacob Resneck is CoastAlaska's regional news director in Juneau.

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