Local News

Soboleff wins Sealaska board seat, Nelson becomes chairman

New Sealaska board member Ross Soboleff. (Courtesy 4 Shareholders for Sealaska)

New Sealaska board member Ross Soboleff. (Courtesy 4 Shareholders for Sealaska)

The Sealaska regional Native corporation has a new board member and a new board chairman.

Shareholders elected Juneau businessman Ross Soboleff to an open seat.

They also re-elected incumbents Rosita Worl, Sidney Edenshaw and Ed Thomas. A resolution limiting discretionary voting failed.

Joseph Nelson was named by the board as chairman. He replaces Albert Kookesh, who remains on the panel but stepped down from the post.

Results were announced at the end of the corporation’s annual meeting at the DoubleTree Hotel near the Seattle-Tacoma airport. About 6,000 of Sealaska’s 21,600 shareholders live in the Pacific Northwest.

New board member Soboleff was part of an independent slate called 4 Shareholders for Sealaska. Fellow members Carlton Smith, Margaret Nelson and Karen Taug were not elected.

Though he was the only one to win, Soboleff says the slate’s message was powerful.

“Most of the board members I’ve spoken to know shareholders are interested in very positive changes in the company. They and me are in the leadership and we have to figure it out together,” he says.

The slate, and most of the six other independent candidates, criticized the board for allowing corporate operations to run into the red by about $57 million last year.

“I would say central to what we came forward with was a turnaround plan for the company,” Soboleff says.

The slate’s Smith was enthusiastic about the results, even if he and two other members lost.

“It’s a powerful victory for shareholders today and it’s a change that’s been wanting to be implemented,” Smith says. “What we’ve got is the beginnings of a brand new board.”

He says the slate cast all its discretionary votes for Soboleff to make sure one member won.

Sealaska’s new CEO, Anthony Mallott, also says the results are a turning point.

“If today’s meeting isn’t proof of change, I don’t know what is,” he said in a press release. “We’ve heard from many people about what is expected of Sealaska, and the great news is that these are the things we’re already working on.”

It’s unusual for Sealaska to have an open board seat. Retiring members usually resign before an election and the board appoints a replacement who then runs as an incumbent.

This year, board member Byron Mallott announced he would not seek re-election so he could pursue his Democratic run for governor. But he completed his term rather than resigning. That guaranteed someone new would fill the seat.

A resolution changing discretionary voting to weaken the board’s hold on ballot counts failed.

Board candidate Mick Beasley, who authored the measure, says he’s frustrated, but would likely try again. He said he may also pursue a term-limits measure, as he has done before.

He was not optimistic about the election’s results.

“I see very little change,” he says.

In all, 13 candidates ran for four board seats this year.

Longtime incumbent Thomas was the top vote-getter, followed by incumbents Edenshaw and Worl. Challenger Soboleff won the fourth seat with the next-highest count.

The board runner-ups, in order of votes received, were Beasley, Myrna Gardner, Ralph Wolfe, Smith, Nelson, Taug, Michelle McConkey, Will Micklin and Edward Sarabia Jr.

The voting share counts are below. Each shareholder casts a vote per share and most own at least 100 shares.

• Edward Thomas 677,440
• Sidney Edenshaw 674,874
• Rosita Worl 674,447
• Ross Soboleff 508,216
• Michael Beasley 472,611
• Myrna Gardner 390,509
• Ralph Wolfe 244,425
• Carlton Smith 206,829
• Margaret Nelson 156,551
• Karen Taug 151,966
• Michelle McConkey 137,691
• Will Micklin 112,261
• Edward Sarabia Jr. 102,166

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