Alaska’s First Native Governor? Meet Byron Mallott
UPDATED: Third paragraph now reflects that Mallott would be second Native U.S. Governor.
It’s Friday morning at 7 o’clock Alaska time and Byron Mallott’s on the phone, returning a reporter’s interview request. He’s been on the road and he sounds tired.
Mallott is pushing hard. Two weeks before the August 19 primary, a poll shows him 15 points behind incumbent Sean Parnell in the race for governor of Alaska. But, Mallott said, pollsters telephoned Alaskans who use landlines, not the cell phones used in most of rural Alaska, where Mallott is certain his strength is.
If Mallott's hunch is right, he could be one step closer to becoming the first Native American governor of Alaska. (It was initially believed he'd be the first Native American governor of a U.S. state. That distinction goes to Johnston Murray, Chickasaw, governor of Oklahoma in 1951-55.)
Mallott, Tlingit, is a youthful 71 and has been involved in politics and government for almost 50 years. He was serving as mayor of Yakutat when the current governor was getting ready for kindergarten. He went on to serve as mayor of Juneau, and direct various state agencies, commissions and statewide organizations.
Mallott (pronounced Mal-LOTT) was born in 1943 in his ancestral home of Yakutat. He was elected mayor at 22. In his ensuing career, he served as commissioner of the state department of Community and Regional Affairs; president of the Alaska Federation of Natives; executive director, Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation; co-chairman of the state Commission on Rural Governance and Empowerment; chairman of the Nature Conservancy of Alaska; and president, CEO and senior fellow of the First Alaskans Institute.
He served as a trustee of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, member of the Alaskan Command Civilian Advisory Board; and member at large of the Institute of the North.
On the business side, he served as CEO, chairman and director of Sealaska Corporation; director, Alaska Communications Systems Holdings; and founding director of Alaska Commercial Fisheries and Agriculture Bank. He served on the boards of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Native American Bancorporation Co., Native American Bank, N.A., Seafirst Bank, Alaska Air, the National Alliance of Business, and Yak-tat Kwaan, Inc., an Alaska Native corporation. He is a licensed pilot and a commercial fisherman.
Mallott has an honorary doctorate in humanities from the University of Alaska, was executive-in-residence at University of Alaska Southeast’s School of Business & Public Administration, and was inducted into the Alaska Business Hall of Fame. He was named Alaskan of the Year in 2012 and is a recipient of the Eric Johnson Champion of Native Rights Award.
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