Sealaska Corp. shareholders have elected an independent candidate to the board of directors that controls Southeast Alaska’s regional Native Corporation.
Nicole Hallingstad received 823,055 votes in election results announced Saturday afternoon. She received the third-most votes among seven candidates being considered for five seats on the board. The top five vote-getters were elected to the board and will serve three-year terms.
Results were announced Saturday at the corporation’s annual meeting, which took place in the Wrangell High School gymnasium.
Hallingstad is a former Sealaska vice president and corporate secretary who unsuccessfully ran for the board in 2016 and 2017 before winning a seat this year.
“This is my third year, and I feel deeply grateful to all of the shareholders who placed their trust and faith in me. It’s a privilege to have this responsibility, and I’m excited to get to work,” she said by phone from Wrangell.
Thomas received the sixth-most votes (770,353) followed by independent candidates Karen Taug (765,422) and Edwell John Jr. (275,757). Taug is Controller of Bartlett Regional Hospital, and John Jr. is a specialist at the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services in Juneau.
During her various campaigns, Hallingstad has encouraged Sealaska to enact a burial assistance program, something the board of directors approved in May this year. The Deishú Memorial Fund will pay up to $1,000 to the family of a deceased shareholder.
Now that she is a director, she said, “I’ll do my best to keep our businesses aligned with our values as Native peoples and make sure that they are sound investments.”
“I think the highest priority that benefits our shareholders is fulfilling the landless claims.”
Hallingstad was referring to five Southeast communities that were not allowed to form village or urban corporations under the 1972 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Without local corporations, the Native residents of those communities were unable to take federal land in compensation for lost territory.
The communities are Haines, Ketchikan, Petersburg, Tenakee and Wrangell.
Nelson, who is ending a term as chairman of Sealaska’s board, said by phone Saturday that the landless village issue “is definitely our top public policy priority for the company right now.”
Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, all support legislation to fix the issue, and Sealaska is lobbying for federal movement.
“That’s why we’re meeting in Wrangell, partly,” he said.
Sealaska completed a major financial turnaround last year, and Nelson said one of the priorities of his next term will be to bring the benefits of that turnaround to shareholders and communities across Southeast. Sealaska is Alaska’s largest regional Native corporation, with more than 23,000 shareholders. This year, its board (including Nelson) deposited $10 million into the scholarship account for shareholders and created the burial benefit.
“We’ve got a bright future. We’ve got to do better in engaging the shareholders who are not voting and not as engaged. We can still do better in getting them to vote and attracting them to community meetings,” he said.
This year, shareholders controlling approximately 61 percent of the company’s stock voted in the election. That’s up from 57 percent in 2017.
Hallingstad said she would like to carry forward with the ideas she campaigned on: corporate profitability, election reform, and communications with shareholders.
In addition to the board elections, the annual meeting was used as a forum to showcase the corporation’s accomplishments over the past year. In new action, the board approved a resolution transferring ownership of Kiks.ádi Totem Park in Wrangell from Sealaska to the federally recognized tribe, the Wrangell Cooperative Association.
Aidan Hellen of Klukwan was named the board’s youth adviser for 2018-2019, replacing Nicole George of Angoon.
Charlene Hughes, Theodore Burkhart and Trevor Mendez each won $1,000 for participating in the meeting via webcast. Charlene Korber, Angelina Ingle, Karen Stephanenko, Charlene Jackson, Ronda Grant, Brenda Casperson and Jana Haren won prizes of various amounts.
The 2019 annual meeting will take place in Anchorage.
• Contact reporter James Brooks at email@example.com or 523-2258.