Missing Larry Sharp
Larry Sharp was a gentleman and someone who did much to advance credit unions (“Former Arrowhead CEO Larry Sharp Dies: In Memoriam,” CU Times, Feb. 18).
I saw Larry often at the annual California Credit Union Roundtable, at the CUNA GAC, at the CCUL Government Relations Rally and he and I co-chaired the Vision 2000 task force that revised the California Credit Union Leagues governance structure.
Larry was a great entrepreneur. He started a number of CUSOs and was often ahead of his peers in recognizing new ways to serve members. He was a leader in serving small business, he was leader in bringing trust services to his members, he was a leader in brining insurance services to his members. Most importantly, he was deeply involved in regulatory advocacy and in political advocacy. Larry went to Congressional and legislative leaders and made the case for important legislation or in many cases, against bad legislation. He was always out in front. He was always vocal. He was a leader.
In hindsight, Larry paid the price for his strong convictions. He was a good CEO and would have managed his credit union back to health. But Larry could not abide regulators telling him what to do. The great recession hit the Inland Empire very hard. The losses at Arrowhead CU were due to the recession not because of bad management. But in the end, it was bad judgment to fight the regulators. For that, Larry lost his job.
I regret that I did not do more to support him during this period of time. I knew that many of the credit union's business ventures were risky. It was easy to assume that is why the credit union had financial problems. But it is now clear that Larry had the bad luck to be in the worst hit area of California during the biggest economic downturn since the Depression.
I was on the stage with Larry during the Leo Shapiro award ceremony and talked to him afterward. I asked him how he was doing. At that time, he must have known he had a serious illness. But he smiled and told me things were good. I asked him if he still had time for flying his plane. He said he gave that up.
Goodbye to a true gentleman and a great credit union leader. I will miss him. We will all miss him.
SAFE Credit Union