My Turn: Seek out leaders who will work in your best interests

Posted: Wednesday, February 03, 2010

There have been a lot of stories in (and noticeably absent from) the news recently about elected politicians who are also board members of their Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act corporations. At times, their position in state and local governments is in direct opposition to their duties to the corporations. This needs to change!

For example, flexing the muscle and using the position of state senator to forward the agenda of the position on a corporation is wrong. I know that Sen. Albert Kookesh had his heart in the right place, but he was wrong on so many levels. Rep. Bill Thomas was just as guilty by not stopping what happened. I've always liked both of them.

Another example would be those on the city Assembly. We elect these individuals to work towards making our community better. They should be helping make industry and business stronger - or at least make opportunities viable. They should be encouraging smart growth and making decisions that help grow, or at least stabilize, our property values.

Goldbelt plans to build a bunkhouse at Echo Cove so miners "don't have to live in Juneau" (see Chilkat Valley News, Dec. 10, 2009). This is in direct opposition to the good of our community. Those miners won't be buying their clothing, food or other supplies in our stores. They get the benefits of working in a state without income tax yet contribute nothing to our towns.

I have always been a supporter of Randy Wanamaker, but when I read this in the Haines newspaper I was astonished and disgusted that this person was only a few heartbeats away from being our mayor.

This is so unnecessary! There are plenty of bright and talented members of our community and there is plenty of room on boards, commissions and community assemblies for all to have a voice. There is no reason that all of these positions should be held by just a few individuals.

I implore our indigenous people to look around and seek out those who will work in their best interests. Rather than relying on a half-dozen "important" people to fill 20 positions, look around and find those you feel have promise. Populate your assemblies, boards and commissions with a greater number of people who will look out for you, your best interests and your concerns. More voices carry more power!

Most of the people you have working for you are in their 50s, 60s, 70s or older, and they have made a career - almost an entire industry - of "helping" you.

There are lots of big shoes to fill. What will you do when your current leaders are gone? Who will be the next Elizabeth Peratrovich, Sam Jackson (RIP) or Dr. Walter Sobeloff? I look forward to finding out.

• Debbie White is a longtime citizen of Juneau and broker and owner of Prudential Southeast Alaska Real Estate.

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