As a former member of Congress, Mica gave CUNA access it never had before in a direct manner it didn't have before. He had and has deep and excellent connections. He has used those rigorously to not only gain new authorities for credit unions and greater understanding of their issues, but also to defend them.
Mica's polished air and smooth oratory skills made him a strong front man for CUNA and the movement. From my perspective of working with him over the last nine years, when you asked him a question, he always had a ready answer, even as the cogs in his head were turning two sentences ahead of what his mouth was saying. I may not have always liked the answer, but it was there. Someone who can think on their feet like that is a real asset.
That's what Mica brought to credit unions in a nutshell. And, he does still have more than a year until his designated departure date.
So what did credit unions bring to him? According to Mica, a new dimension for compassion and sensitivity. Having served in bottom-line oriented atmospheres like Congress and the insurance industry, he discovered that credit unions work toward a belief and a philosophy, which he found refreshing.
After H.R. 1151, bankers offered him twice his contract at CUNA, which he turned down. H.R. 1151 was one of many accomplishments that Mica contributed to. Aside from his stature, his understanding of the power of grass roots enabled CUNA staff, as well as the leagues, to demonstrate the power of the people that is not often seen. Without H.R. 1151, millions would have been denied access to credit union services, and credit unions to them.
He also oversaw the pursuit of the Credit Union Regulatory Improvements Act, which gained steam, but just barely made it across the Capitol to be introduced in the Senate. However, some regulatory relief was achieved in Congress, though lacking the capital reforms and business lending provisions that seemed the more hot button issues in CURIA for credit unions. CUNA and others have also successfully staved off efforts to tax credit unions. Internally, CUNA's PAC grew eightfold in five election cycles to $4 million, and he provided the idea behind Credit Union House, a permanent home for credit unions right on Capitol Hill.
Mica readily credited his staff for the accomplishments and said he was grateful to be a part. He told me one of his greatest satisfactions that doesn't get recorded during his reviews is the respect the CUNA staff have for each other and the rapport they share. "People get along; it's a joy to come to work," he said. While he's comfortable he's making the correct decision to leave CUNA after 13 years, he expects the relationships he built there, and with the league, to continue. Mica noted that he's stayed longer at CUNA than the 10 years his mentor, the late Rep. Paul G. Rogers' advised for any job.
But Mica's tenure was not without controversy, including one of his very first utterances on the job: merge the two national trade associations. He even suggested that his retirement would be a "golden opportunity" to blend both of the talented staffs of CUNA and NAFCU.
The credit union industry was also divided on the need for bankruptcy reform, which CUNA helped push through Congress over eight years, as well as the more recent cramdown provision that CUNA was successful in preventing.
Over the next year-plus, much of the focus will be on Mica leaving and who's going to replace him. Already hearing some names being floated; of course some have been surfacing for years. But that's fodder for another column.
However, one man who has shunned the limelight in order to help make Dan Mica and CUNA what it is today is Rich McBride, who will also be leaving at the same time. I had the opportunity to interview him several years back (CU Times, Oct. 1, 2003). McBride served as then-Congressman Mica's chief of staff, and after moving from Florida to Washington, stuck with Mica. The duo goes back as far as college, but McBride has also worked in small business and served in the Air Force as well.
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