CEOs of small credit unions in six Midwest states began voting last week in a now hotly contested four-way race for a CUNA board seat.
A key campaign issue-getting some heated rhetoric on the CUES online network-centers on eligibility of one of the candidates, Pat Wesenberg of Wisconsin.
"I am truly sorry for all the confusion and that the discussion has centered on me," lamented Wesenberg, adding she understands the concern of her opponents on the threshold issue of membership as the CU where she is CEO moved above the 21,000 mark earlier this year.
Still, she insists her opponents have unfairly misinterpreted the CUNA rules. Wesenberg, in essence, represents two Wisconsin CUs.
Her chief employer is Central City CU of Marshfield, which she heads, but she is running on behalf of Marshfield Medical Center, where she is legislative liaison.
The other three candidates include a 29-year-old Kansas City volunteer, a former chairman of the Iowa Credit Union League and the CEO of a suburban Chicago CU are vying for the District 4, Class C seat. That directorship represents CUs under 21,000 members in Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota and Michigan
The voting which began last month will end Dec 17 with the winner formally taking office at CUNA's annual Governmental Affairs Conference next year in Washington.
"I believe Wesenberg should resign and the CUNA board should be ashamed of this kind of conduct to let this go on," fumed Wesenberg opponent, Dennis Fisher, president/CEO of First Security CU of Lincolnwood, Ill.
Wesenberg has turned aside the Fisher call, contending her 29 years of industry service puts her in good stead to continue on the CUNA board.
Pat Drennen, president/CEO of 1st Security CU of Comanche, Iowa, and a past chairman of the Iowa League, said he can vouch for Wesenberg's good job on the board and yet there can be a problem with meeting "the spirit of CUNA rules."
In running for the CUNA board, Drennen said he expects to offer valued input to the industry in connection with a proposal detailed two weeks ago by the Iowa league for CUs to move correspondent services of Iowa Central Corporate CU into the National Cooperative Bank of Washington and effectively dissolving dissolve the corporate..
Brian Smith-Vandergriff, 29, a director of Catholic Family CU of Kansas City maintains he will not go negative on Wesenberg and is running on a platform that CUNA needs more youthful representatives at its highest leadership levels.
Moreover, Smith-Vandergriff, senior portfolio strategist with a CUSO broker dealer serving CUs, said if elected, "I would be the only credit union volunteer on the CUNA board and volunteers definitely bring a different perspective than managers."
In his platform, Fisher maintains CUNA can vastly improve its lobbying in Congress considering its inability to move member business lending. Fisher also suggested CUNA needs to stay closer to the tea party movement than it has up to now.