BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Kootznoowoo, Inc. is overseen by a seven-member Board of Directors who are responsible for establishing the direction, strategy, and policies for the corporation. Each Director is elected to a three-year term by shareholders with voting status. Directors are all Alaska Native and enrolled shareholders in Kootznoowoo.
EUNICE E. JAMES
Eunice E. James was elected to the Board and began serving as Chair in 2022. In this role, she is responsible for presiding over all board and shareholder meetings, working closely with the corporation’s leadership, and serves as ex-officio on all committees.
Currently, Eunice has been employed with the Central Council Tlingit & Haida as Family Casework II since 2014. Previously worked for the Alaska State Department of Fish and Game. Eunice also has served as president of the Juneau Lion’s Club, Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp 7 (Angoon), and Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp 1 (Sitka). Additionally, she has served on several committees in support of the Gold Medal tournament.
Eunice holds an Associate of Science in Human Services and a Certificate in Rural Human Services from the University of Alaska Fairbanks as well as an Administrators Certificate from Sheldon Jackson College. She is currently pursing a bachelor’s degree.
The daughter of the late Robert G. James Sr. and Helene R. James. She is of the Kaagwaantan from the Ch’aak Koodi Hit house.
Eunice’s term ends in 2025.
“As directors, it is our responsibility to be watchful stewards over the land as well as pursuing opportunities for our corporation that is beneficial to shareholders”
MARY JEAN DUNCAN
Mary Jean Duncan was elected to the Board and began serving as Vice Chair in 2022.
A lifelong resident of Angoon, Mary Jean recently retired from the Chatham School District where she served in multiple positions throughout her 30-year career including as an elementary school teacher and later as the district’s Indian Education Coordinator. In addition, she also is a council member of the Angoon Community Association and has held the position of Treasurer.
She earned a Bachelor of Arts from Sheldon Jackson College and completed additional training in education technology at the University of Alaska Southeast.
Mary Jean is the daughter of Barbara and Joseph Johnson Sr. and she is the granddaughter of Maggie Harry, Neechx yaa nas.at of the Kwasshkakwaan clan.
Mary Jean’s term ends in 2025.
“It is my sincere desire to work hard for our people in an ethical and effective manner. I am glad to be a part of the effort to improve the quality of life for our shareholders by creating new opportunities for employment, job training, and higher education.”
MELISSA M. KOOKESH
Melissa M. Kookesh serves as the Treasurer of the Kootznoowoo, Inc. Board of Directors. She has been serving on the Board since 2016 and also served as Board Chair from 2016-2022.
Melissa is currently employed as the Tribal Liaison for the Alaska Broadband Office at the State of Alaska’s Commerce, Community & Economic Development. Previously she held positions with the Alaska State Legislature from 2015-22, and in the Office of the President at the Central Council Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. Melissa holds an Associate of Arts and Sciences and Certification in Tribal Management from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Melissa is the daughter of Lena Woods and the late Floyd M. Kookesh and is the granddaughter of the late Matthew and Ramona Kookesh. Melissa is Raven Dog Salmon from the Central House in Angoon, and her Tlingit name is X’eetoow.
Melissa’s term ends in 2025.
“It is an honor to serve the shareholders of Kootznoowoo and to be a part of leading the corporation into a new direction of success. Working to make the corporation profitable and one that we can all be proud of has not been an easy task, but we continue to make significant advancements towards our vision.”
Ella Bennett began her service on the Kootznoowoo Board in 2015 and was elected as Board Chair in 2016. She began serving as Board Secretary in 2022.
Throughout her career, Ella has primarily been employed in positions that provided service to the Southeast Alaska Native community. Most recently, she works as an Administrative Assistant at the Tlingit & Haida Community Council and previously was a Records Clerk at Sealaska Corporation where she also worked in the Shareholder Records Department for twenty-seven years. Additionally, Ella was a consultant with Records Management Consulting Services from 2011-2012.
Born in Angoon, Ella is a graduate of Mount Edgecumbe High School. She later earned a Certified Public Manager certification from the University of Alaska Southeast.
Ella has also contributed to the community through appointments to other boards including the Tlingit Haida Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners where she currently serves as Vice Chair; the Juneau Tlingit Haida Community Council’s Housing Committee; and the Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska’s Tribal Enrollment Committee. Ella is the daughter of the late Johnnie and Nadja Gamble.
Ella’s term ends in 2024.
“I believe that the success of our corporation means pursing business ventures, incorporating our cultural and traditional values into our business plans, and embracing a future of success.”
Albert Howard was appointed to the Board in 2021 to fill a vacant board seat. Previously he served on the Kootznoowoo Board and the Kootznoowoo Cultural & Educational Foundation from 2015-18.
Albert resides in Angoon, Alaska. He is currently employed as a seasonal guide and commercial salmon fisherman.
Albert’s term ends in 2023.
FRANK JACK III
Frank Jack III was elected to the Kootznoowoo Board in 2017 and formerly served on the Executive Committee.
Frank is a resident of Angoon and is employed as a Miner with the Hecla Greens Creek Mine. Previously, he worked as a Site Supervisor for 12 years with Tlingit Haida Regional Housing and also was a member of the Angoon City Council. Frank is committed to supporting the community with strong involvement in local cultural activities and preservation.
Frank is the son of Frank Jack, Jr. and Martha Henniger-Jack. His paternal grandparents are the late Frank Jack, Sr. and Elizabeth (Beth) Jack and his maternal grandparents are the late Bernard Henniger and Marion Valle-Henniger. Frank is Galyàx Kaagwantaan from Yakutat.
Frank’s term ends in 2023.
“My priority for Kootznoowoo is to think outside of the box and develop a portfolio of diverse businesses that are strong and viable. It is our responsibility as Directors to ensure that our corporation is profitable in order to safeguard continued benefits and dividends for not only the shareholders of today, but also the shareholders and descendants of tomorrow.”
EDWELL JOHN JR.
Edwell John Jr. was re-elected to the Board in 2021 after having previously served from 2001-04 and 2016-19.
As an experience professional in Information Technology, Edwell has held multiple IT positions with the State of Alaska and is currently employed as the IT Manager for the Department of Transportation. He is a retired U.S. Army Staff Sargent with twenty-two years of service. Edwell has earned an Associates of Science in Computer Engineering from Ocean County College; a Bachelor of Business Administration with an emphasis in Entrepreneurship from the University of Alaska Southeast; a Master of Business Administration from Alaska Pacific University; and he is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Executive Leadership at the University of Charleston in West Virginia.
Edwell is a member of ANB-Angoon Camp, clan leader of the Dakl’aweidi (Angoon), and through his mother a descendant of the Deisheetaan (Killer Whale Chasing the Seal House). His Tlingit names are Tlei ya keet, Yeetsaa and Woochx’aduhaa.
Edwell’s term ends in 2024.
“As an IT professional, I understand the importance of finding innovative solutions to challenging technical problems. I believe the same process in finding solutions can also apply to Kootznoowoo as we work to transition the corporation to financial independence.”
PRESIDENT & CEO
Thomas Wilbur began serving as President & CEO of Kootznoowoo, Inc. in March 2023. He is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day functions of the corporation including all business operations, and developing policies, procedures, and programs to strengthen and enhance Kootznoowoo, Inc.
Prior to joining Kootznoowoo, Mr. Wilbur served as CEO of 7th Legacy, LLC., a Traverse City, Michigan based professional services firm. He is also an adjunct professor of organizational leadership at Concordia University’s School of Business Administration. Earlier in his career, he served in the U.S. Army as an Airborne-Ranger Infantry Officer (Captain) and later as an Aide-de-Camp for a General Officer. Mr. Wilbur is an enrolled citizen of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin.
Mr. Wilbur holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Washington and a Master of Science from Grand Canyon University where he is also currently in the dissertation phase of a doctoral degree in Organizational Leadership with an emphasis in Organizational Development. He is also a graduate of Dartmouth College, the Tuck School of Business Executive Education program.