With voting set to start this week, CUNA members representing a group of the smallest credit unions will be facing a contested election for one of the seats on the CUNA board of directors.
The two rivals in the face-off for the District 4, Class A seat for CUs with less than 21,000 members are Patricia A. Wesenberg of Wisconsin and Brian Smith-Vandergriff of Kansas City.
The incumbent, Wesenberg, is sponsored by the $49 million Marshfield Medical Center where she is governmental affairs liaison. She also is president/CEO of a competitor CU in Marshfield, the $166 million Central City.
Her challenger, Smith-Vandergriff, is a 29-year-old volunteer and CUSO executive who advocates greater diversity on the CUNA board.
"As a third generation member of the credit union movement, I have sought this position to provide service and guidance to the industry during these unprecedented times," explained Smith-Vandergriff, citing his experience in financial and tech markets as well as offering a generational perspective.
Wesenberg, who stressed her own veteran experience on the board having served six years and elected secretary earlier this year, maintained that a quirk in eligibility rules involving Central City's membership count triggered her decision to seek another term.
Under CUNA rules, the Class A seat must be for CUs with membership of less than 21,000 "but our numbers jumped above 21,000-to 21,385-just after we did a data processing conversion in May," said Wesenberg.
"We have checked the bylaws, and I want to be completely transparent about this so there is nothing to hide. But under the arrangement with Marshfield Medical, I would like to continue my service to CUNA," said Wesenberg.
The Central City CEO said she feels during her terms on the CUNA board as a table officer and member of the executive committee, her tenure and background has helped craft CUNA policies "during a particularly difficult and pivotal period."
Wesenberg also forecast that her experience will be helpful as CUNA faces what she said could be a fierce banker challenge on the tax-exemption issue as evidenced in recent statements relating to the corporate seizures.
Her Kansas City rival, Smith-Vandergriff, said he, too, is familiar with industry challenges.
He said he offers a set of skills drawn from his experience as a director of Catholic Family CU in Kansas City and serving as a CUNA faculty member teaching on CU investments, ALM, and risk management. He also is a senior portfolio strategist of investment services at CNBS, a CUSO.
Citing a longstanding relationship with Marshfield Medical on community projects, Wesenberg said following talks with Carol Adler, the president/CEO, it was agreed last August for the Central City CEO to take on the government relations post in line with the Class A eligibility rule.
"Carol's credit union serves the medical area in Marshfield while ours is community oriented so there are few overlaps," said Wesenberg.
Smith-Vandergriff said "I offer a unique combination of skills and experience."
Voting by CUNA members in the contested election was to start Oct. 27 and end Dec. 17.
Apart from the contested race, CUNA listed other board nominations for various district and class seats with winners slated to take office during the Governmental Affairs Conference in February.
Among seats to be filled is the one that was held by Mary Cunningham, the former CEO of the $606 million USA Fed CU of San Diego who resigned after her financially troubled CU was merged into the $41 billion Navy FCU in September.
"Her seat is being included in the current election in process for the District 6, Class B seat," explained Mark Wolff, CUNA senior vice president.
Assistant Editor Marygrace Murphy contributed to this article.