The June 10 annual membership meeting of the Mat-Su Health Foundation (MSHF) included impassioned calls for the organization to let its members, once again, vote for their representatives on the organization’s powerful governing board of directors.

Controversy about the priorities and direction of the nearly $400 million-dollar nonprofit has been broiling for several years, ever since it began funding programs and organizations that push critical race theory, the LGBTQ agenda and divisive Covid mandates.

Founded in 2005 as the nonprofit branch of Mat-Su Regional Medical Center, the MSHF’s original purpose was to appropriate some of the revenues earned through its partial ownership in the hospital back to the community through grants that improve the health of local residents. While many MSHF initiatives assist widely-supported community programs, the organization’s recent decisions to advance divisive social agendas, while swelling its bottom line has upset residents in the highly conservative Mat-Su.

MSHF now owns 35% of the hospital and brings in tens of millions of dollars annually. According to its latest annual report, the organization’s net assets ballooned from $333 million in 2022 to $390 million last year. This $57 million-increase was driven by a combination of high hospital fees and the fact that Mat-Su Regional is the only hospital serving the Mat-Su area.

Ron Johnson speaks during public comment at the June 10 Mat-Su Health Foundation membership meeting.

In addition to capturing tens of millions in hospital profits, the MSHF also gets to appoint five of the 10 members who serve on the powerful hospital governance and oversight committee.

A few days before the MSHF membership meeting, the Mat-Su Borough Assembly passed a resolution, encouraging MSHF to return to its previous practice of allowing rank-and-file members to vote for who sits on the organization’s board of directors. The resolution also questioned how the MSHF prioritized its spending, and whether it was doing enough with the immense wealth it has amassed from hospital profits to help drive down healthcare costs for ordinary Mat-Su residents.

Additionally, the resolution sought to incentivize borough employees to seek healthcare services in Anchorage where hospital costs are more affordable.

This issue came up again during the June 10 membership meeting at the Menard Sports Complex in Wasilla.

Following a dinner and awards ceremony, MSHF President and CEO Elizabeth Ripley gave a defiant speech, in which she defended the organization’s financial arrangement with the hospital and blamed the Mat-Su Regional’s high consumer costs on faulty healthcare laws and policy at the state level.

Ripley criticized the borough assembly for trying to incentivize employees to seek healthcare outside the Mat-Su.

“Most hospitals in Alaska make huge profits due to Alaska’s weak health policy, and send those dollars out of state,” she said. In our case 35% of those dollars stay here to be invested in the Mat-Su Community…”

Ripley then defended MSHF self-appointing board, in which members have no power over who directs the organization or the priorities and agendas it advances.

“Like most for-profit and nonprofit companies, the foundation has a self-appointing board of directors,” Ripley said. “This is the best-practice model.”

She claimed that the board does not consider anyone’s politics or political opinions when deliberating over who should serve on the board.

“We don’t talk politics in the board room,” Ripley asserted. “We talk about health and stewardship. We don’t seek people with political agendas or any kind of personal agenda.”

Mat-Su residents gather for the June 10 membership meeting of the Mat-Su Health Foundation.

While suggesting that input from the membership is important, Ripley said the board works best when it is accountable to itself.

“Our self-appointed board holds itself and the staff accountable to the data and the research and community input,” she said.

After Ripley’s comments, Board Member Sammye Pokryfki took to the podium for a further defense of the “self-appointed” board model, saying the 11-to-15-member board vets applicants based on what she called a “matrix” of perceived needs.

She said a subcommittee of the board uses the “matrix” to identify strengths and weaknesses in the board and to make recommendations on who should serve to fill the gaps.

Following these speeches, the members were given a chance to weigh in. It was clear there had been a massive membership drive in the wake of last year’s meeting in which many new conservative-minded members had joined in an effort to do away with the self-appointed board policy.

Last year, MSHF had just over 350 total members, with a sizable number being newly enlisted conservatives. This year, the membership rolls had swelled to 860, and it was clear that many of these additions were supportive of the board’s self-appointed model.

About 250 members attended the annual meeting, and unlike last year, conservatives were a much smaller minority.

Before inviting members to testify, Board Director Lisa Wade assured them that, “Your input matters to us and to our community.”

A total of 10 people signed up to give three-minute testimonies. Seven lavished praise on MSHF and its self-appointed board, while three others challenged the board to let members vote on their representatives.

Father Randy Hillman, who has been involved with the hospital and health foundation since its earliest days, said members should have a greater say in the direction of the organization.

“I know a lot about the Mat-Su Health Foundation, and the original reason why it was formed – I was in administration,” he said. “We are asking, as members of the Mat-Su Health Foundation, to have voice in electing the board members. It wasn’t like that originally when it was started.”

He asked the board to “please consider this request” to once again allow members to vote on their board representatives.

“Don’t be elite,” he concluded. “Don’t be self-perpetuating.”

Former MSHF board member Jerry Troshynski who was tapped for board membership from 2010 to 2019 praised the self-selecting practice, and suggested that allowing rank-and-file members to vote for board members would lead to politicization. Several others echoed his sentiments.

“I can’t think of anything that’s politicized that works,” Troshynski said.

Ron Johnson strongly disagreed.

After stating that the failure to start the meeting with the pledge of allegiance was insulting to the many veterans in the audience, he said it was disingenuous to have board members select their own colleagues rather than giving members a voting voice.

“We have enough good sense to elect good board members,” he said, pointing out that there are highly functioning elected boards all across the state that have served admirably. This would include the Mat-Su School Board, borough assembly and many others.

He said it is the American way for people elect their representatives, and that the MSHF failure to do so suggest the board holds a deep distrust of its members.

Following the public comments, Board Chairwoman Wade assured everyone, “Your voice is important for us.”

The only way to change the way board members are elected, however, is for the board to first approve an agenda item that puts this up for a vote of the membership. Members can suggest an agenda item, but the board does not have to approve it for a meeting.

Last year, Ron Johnson suggested an agenda item that would have allowed for members to vote on returning to a membership-elected board. This agenda item was rejected by the board.

The 2025 MSHF membership meeting is set for June 9. The deadline to submit an agenda item is April 1, 2025, at 5 p.m.

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Defiant Mat-Su Health Foundation rebuffs members’ requests to vote for governing board

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 24 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.


  • Mike says:

    Despite their published board member “search for an invite” algorithm, the existing board looked decidedly late middle-aged, pale and “of means.” Classic aloof liberal elites who know what is best for all of society.

  • mhj says:

    Sounds a lot like the elite of WHO , who also thinks they know what is best for all of us. Look where that has gotten us over the past three years.

  • Steve Peterson says:

    Does this equate to “taxation without representation”? Looks like it needs to be defunded.

  • Friend of Humanity says:

    I still cannot get over that Sammye Pokryfki stepped to the side of evil that is working to take down humanity. Many years ago while in college, she was a smart, driven, I-thought-caring person. Now? She sold her soul to the devil. No better than Ripley-believe-or-not.

  • Friend of Humanity says:

    “MSHF now owns 35% of the hospital” – how did this happen? Have you or someone you know suffered a sentinel event while in MSRMC’s care? If you have not filed a report, consider doing so. Check out Truth for Health’s information to help you file a report.

    • Jeff Butler says:

      “working to take down humanity”? “sentinel event”? What in the world are you talking about?

  • MSHF is Literally Corrupt as Hell says:

    Boycott them, it will not only prove a point, it will actually save you a ton of money. I avoid them as much as possible.