Greene to retire after 13 years at helm of NANA
NANA Regional Corporation president and CEO Kasaŋnaaluk Marie N. Greene doesn't differentiate when it comes to her corporation and her people. They are one and the same.
That is to say, Greene believes that needs, concerns and triumphs of shareholders are that of NANA. NANA is its people.
After 13 years in charge, and two decades total with the corporation, Greene is retiring as president to take more time with her family, friends and her region. Her retirement is effective Jan. 1, 2015.
She's been thinking about retirement for a couple of years, she said Monday.
"I had to give it a lot of thought because I like what I'm doing," she said. "It's not an easy decision."
When Greene, 67, took on the role of president and CEO in 2002, she made a public commitment through the NANA Region Pledge of Unity to improve working relationships with regional partners like the Northwest Arctic Borough, Maniilaq Association and the Northwest Arctic Borough School District, as well as tribal and city governments.
It's a pledge that wasn't taken lightly.
"Looking back now, I'm grateful for that," she said. "That's what we're known for in our region is that unity and working together, so that's one of the highlights of my time here at NANA."
Her style of leadership has focused on harmony and inclusion from the beginning.
"Over the years, that's what makes me whole, is my commitment to serve the people. It's part of my whole being. Sure, we have different relationships ... but that strong commitment is there between my NANA team, communities of the region, statewide leadership and on and on.
"I can't say that NANA is more important or the people are more important, because it's all who I am. It's all together."
Growing up with strong family support helped Greene foster strong bonds in her working relationships and with shareholders across the region.
But she was quick to add that the concerns of the people in the region are many and valid.
"What's been real critical when there are concerns, and let me tell you, there are some major concerns from the shareholders right now, what I try to work real hard at doing is listening to them, respecting their concerns, their point of view, and doing everything I can to respond. Not only respond, but (decide) what is it that we need to put in place to increase our communication to shareholders so we can focus on the issues they're raising."
The shareholder meetings, held on a regular basis in various communities, can be tough, she said. But Greene said listening to concerns in person helps solidify her commitment to improvement.
"I'll be the first to say that we have major challenges," she said.
In response to shareholder concerns, NANA focuses on issues raised at past meetings, whether financial concerns, shareholder hire, or health coverage issues, no topic is off limits, she said.
The corporation also sends out newsletters addressing specific issues, with annual reports and audits also available.
"I feel good about how we've committed to that. We've learned from the past," she said.
Greene was instrumental in the establishment of shareholder outreach programs including shareholder forums and listening sessions, which create more opportunities for dialogue between shareholders and the corporation.
"When I came on board, I quickly realized that the priority had to be increasing our communication with shareholders," she said.
That outreach includes shareholders in the region, in other parts of the state and outside Alaska. Homeless shareholder outreach and programs, as well as outreach to incarcerated NANA shareholders were also implemented under Greene's guidance.
Greene even made the trip to the Red Rock Correctional Center in Arizona to hold a shareholder meeting there.
Other career highlights include the renewed participation in the Northwest Arctic Leaders Team (NWALT) — which includes representatives from Maniilaq, NANA, and the Northwest Arctic Borough, including the school district. To date, the group has secured more than $30 million dollars in funding for regional priorities?
The corporation has also moved to the forefront on Arctic issues through the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) and formed close relationships with the global Inuit community.
Greene was instrumental in facilitating the opening of the Aqqaluk Deposit at the Red Dog Mine, as well as helping improve shareholder employment and development programs at Red Dog.
She also spearheaded the Exploration and Option to Lease Agreement with NovaCopper to examine the potential of the Upper Kobuk Mineral Projects.
There is a lot of potential in the region for responsible development, she said, adding that NANA has been successful when it comes to resource development and maintaining subsistence priorities.
In 2008, Greene helped establish the NANA Elders' Settlement Trust with an initial investment of $32.5 million to provide neede?income for shareholders 65 years of age and older.
Through Greene's leadership, the development of the Rosetta Stone Inupiaq Language CD happened in 2007, resulting in the production of language programs in both dialects of the Inupiat of Northwest Alaska.
The establishment of $1 million in village economic development grants per NANA community and approximately $2 million in energy efficiency education and upgrades through the Energy Wise project also took shape on Greene's watch.
"Like any Native corporation we want our company to succeed and grow," she said. "There's a lot of potential out there ... and, without hesitation, I can honestly say that the team here, including the board, is committed to having it succeed."
A strong team and continued communication with shareholders are important factors in seeing business growth, scholarship programs, and the return of the dividend, Greene said. "And it's my hope that one day shareholders will get (a dividend) more than once a year.
"We'll continue to have that growth ... as long as we continue to work together."
NANA will begin its search for the next president/CEO in the coming weeks through the board of directors' recruitment team?Once the position is filled, the new president/CEO will begin work in November alongside Greene, to allow for a seamless transition once her retirement goes into effect.
"NANA shareholders and our region have benefited greatly under Kasaŋnaaluk's 13 years of leadership," said Nalikak Donald G. Sheldon, NANA's board chairman in a statement. "Leadership positions require that the individual give up a great deal of personal time with family. I completely understand Marie's decision to retire to spend more time with loved ones and cannot possibly thank her enough for her work at NANA? Although she will be leaving this position, I know she will remain involved with our corporation and region for many years to come."