A lot of shareholders and descendants think becoming a board-endorsed nominee means getting hand selected by an existing board member, said current Sealaska Vice Chair Jodi Mitchell. And she understands why.
But Mitchell wants everyone to know that’s not how it works any more.
“Full disclosure: I was chosen the old way,” Mitchell, who joined the board in 2006, said. But around 2015 or so, as Sealaska’s financial turnaround was just starting to gain momentum, she said the process completely changed.
Today, board-endorsed nominees are selected through solicitations on social media, in email, and yes, through personal outreach. But all applicants must send in a current resume and letter of interest that is scored by each member of the Governance and Nominations Committee independent of one another. Committee members don’t discuss the ratings with each other, and an independent contractor tallies the ratings to help the committee narrow the pool down to 10 finalists.
Once the 10 are selected, the committee interviews each of them – this year and last, those are virtual interviews – and they are graded again. The top four or five are then interviewed one last time by the full board. In 2021, there are two seats open for new board-endorsed nominees.
“I want people to know it’s not a popularity contest,” Mitchell said. “It’s about who you are and what you have to offer.”
Mitchell recently led the Nominations Committee through its revision of the criteria for receiving the board’s endorsement, which is an annual process based on Sealaska’s business position and considers any gaps in skills or experience that may exist among current board members. This year’s skills assessment should be complete before the board starts evaluating candidates for its endorsement after the Monday, Feb. 15 deadline to apply.
The committee’s criteria on which candidates will be ranked places particular emphasis on people with business and financial-stewardship experience. Sealaska is now an international company, and candidates with experience working internationally or in large, multinational organizations are highly desirable. Character and integrity; leadership experience; familiarity with cultural practices and traditional ways of life; and education are also on the list.
“We are a for-profit corporation that can only provide shareholder benefits if we make a profit,” said Sealaska director Morgan Howard. “So business knowledge and experience is mandatory. Of course I always want us to be Native people engaged in business and not business people who happen to be Native. You must know why we are in business – it’s for our people. That’s the real bottom line – our people.”
Mitchell said that although the process of selecting nominees to receive the board’s endorsement is rigorous and thorough, she doesn’t want shareholders or descendants to be afraid to apply.
“I want them to be excited about it,” Mitchell said. “I don’t want people to think if they don’t have a bachelor’s degree or some kind of degree they shouldn’t apply. Education is important but so is experience. I know we have entrepreneurs out there that maybe didn’t get a college degree but have vast experience running a business. … I’d be excited to have someone like that on the board.”
There may be dozens of applicants for only two available seats, and Mitchell also wants to encourage anyone who applies and does not receive the board’s endorsement to either run as an independent candidate or keep trying in subsequent years. It’s also a good opportunity to get on the company’s radar for future job opportunities.
“We’re always looking for qualified shareholders to work for us,” she said.
Candidates interested in becoming a board-endorsed nominee should send a resume and letter of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org by 11:59 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 22. For more information, please visit https://www.sealaska.com/businesses/nominees-needed-to-serve-as-sealaska-board-endorsed-candidates/.