By Gretchen Wehmhoff
The building isn’t there. In fact, it was built and came down twice — the last time due to fire after sitting empty for decades. An RV campground sits in its place.
Byron Mallott, the former CEO of Sealaska Corporation and Alaska’s first Alaska Native Lieutenant Governor, was one of “the mission kids” who attended the St. Pius X Mission in Skagway. Even in the small town of Skagway, differentiating the “town kids” from the “mission kids” was common, although students attending the mission school included both.
Mallott and his sister attended St. Pius X in its final years. As the school closed, both finished the year at Skagway High School. Mallott later graduated from Sheldon Jackson High School in Sitka.
Sam Kito III, former state legislator for the area, remembers Mallott well as a family friend.
“He’s known me longer than I knew him,” said Kito, who believes he was younger than ten when he recalls the families spending holidays and visiting together.
Kito’s father, Sam Kito Jr, attended St. Pius as well, albeit prior to Mallott’s attendance. Kito Jr. and Mallott became friends somewhere along the line, often taking fishing trips and adventures together. Kito says when he was 12 or 13, Mallott and Kito Jr. took him along on a gillnetter up towards Lituya Bay near Yakutat, Mallott’s hometown. The waters were rough, but the adventure was memorable.
“It was a good trip,” said Kito.
Kito remembers his dad and Mallott visiting on the porch catching up on people around Southeast in Craig, Ketchikan and other towns.
“Southeast is a large community separated by water,” said Kito. “People lived and worked on the water. It was fishing and basketball that brought people together.”
Mallott was Tlingit from Yakutat, the Kito’s were Tlingit and Japanese from Kake.
“It was AFN that was the big connector,” Kito said. His dad and Mallott became close with other Alaska Native leaders around the state like Willie Hensley and Ivan Ivan.
Mallott served as President of the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN). In 1994 he was elected mayor of Juneau. He eventually resigned to serve as the executive director of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation (APFC). He was appointed to the board of directors of APFC by Gov. Jay Hammond in 1982.
In 2014, Mallott won the Democratic primary for governor. In September of that year, he and independent candidate, Bill Walker, joined forces with the blessing of the Alaska Democratic Party and won the gubernatorial election. Mallott willingly resigned near the end of the term due to an incident at a social event that remained quiet.
Mallott’s service to Alaska began in Alaska small towns like Yakatat, Skagway and Sitka. His friendships and connections stretched the entire state through AFN, politics and travel. He and his wife, Toni, lived in Juneau where she taught school. They raised five children.
Mallott suffered a heart attack on May 7 and was flown to Anchorage. He died the next day. He was 77.