Sealaska’s newest board member says he’ll continue to push for election and management changes. And at least some on the Juneau-based regional Native corporation’s governing body say they’re willing to listen.
Juneau’s Mick Beasley has spent years as an outsider, criticizing Sealaska’s leaders and business practices.
Now, he’s an insider, one of four candidates who won board seats in this year’s shareholders’ elections.
So, what’s next?
“Got to learn to get along. Hopefully introduce a little bit of a different mindset,” he said.
Beasley, a journeyman carver, won his seat by coming in fourth, behind three incumbents who ran as the board slate.
Coming in first was Juneau’s Jodi Mitchell, who’s been on the board since 2006. She’s CEO of the Inside Passage Electric Cooperative, which provides power to several small Southeast communities.
Mitchell, the board’s new vice chairwoman, said Beasley will find a group of people with similar values.
“I look forward to welcoming him into the fold and hearing his ideas about how we can make a better company,” she said.
Beasley has authored several measures in the past calling for board term limits, including a resolution on this year’s ballot. It won the majority of votes cast, but not a majority of those that could have been cast. That’s the standard for a policy change.
He’s also campaigned against discretionary voting. That’s where shareholders turn their ballot decisions over to the board, which helps keep incumbents in office.
He said next time, he’ll try a different approach.
“I would like to introduce a measure to reduce the board members from 13 to 9. I think that it’s just too expensive and too chaotic having a large board,” he said.
Mitchell said she’s not ready to address that proposal.
But she points to the failure of past term-limits and discretionary-voting measures.
“Shareholders have addressed these issues on numerous occasions and they haven’t passed. However, I do think the board is very interested in reviewing our government practices and succession planning. And so I expect there might be changes coming,” she said.
Mitchell said it’s up to the full board and she doesn’t want to predict any specific action. But she says “it’s pretty obvious” this year’s strong showing for term limits shows growing shareholder support.
Board election results were made public following Sealaska’s annual meeting June 25 in Ketchikan.
Also winning re-election were Tlingit and Haida Business Corporation CEO Richard Rinehart and National Congress of American Indians Executive Director Jackie Johnson Pata.
Five other independent candidates also ran for board seats.
At the Ketchikan meeting, Sealaska CEO Anthony Mallott said the corporation would continue to invest in businesses in Southeast Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. That’s where most of Sealaska’s approximately 22,000 shareholders live.
Mitchell said a recent Seattle business purchase, announced in May, is a step in the right direction.
“I’m really excited in our new investment in IPC, the seafood-packaging company. But I do know that we have a lot of work to do to grow shareholder jobs and to bring more meaningful benefits to our shareholders,” she said.
New board member Beasley supports such efforts. But he said the seafood processor investment should have been more than a minority purchase.
“If we don’t own 51 percent of a company and we’re an investor, that’s all we are, is an investor. There’ll be capital calls and I think all we are going to end up being is deep pockets for this,” he said.
Sealaska Chief Operating Officer Terry Downes has said the purchase created a partnership that will deliver profits while giving the corporation a voice in management decisions.