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ST. GEORGE, Utah – As its retiring CEO, Ed Twitchell, 63, has long professed “no fear” when it comes to the $80 million Southern Utah Federal Credit Union facing up to the competition – whether it’s banks or CUs larger than SUFCU. “We just don’t roll over simply because the guy down the street comes in with a new product or service,” boasts Twitchell who exhorts his 65-member staff to stick to the basics by treating each member fairly and with dignity. That philosophy has kept Southern Utah on a steady growth path and earned Twitchell a reputation as a leading innovator of new products and technology in the state. “Ever since I’ve worked with him and that’s been 20 years, Ed has had an uncanny insight as to what is going to happen on the financial front, which is why we were the first to have a mainframe computer and the first to start checking accounts,” notes Pat Stratton, the CU’s retired vice president of operations. Twitchell who formally retired on July 13 after almost 27 years with Southern Utah, expects to stay on the job through Dec. 31. In the CEO slot, he is being succeeded by Muriel Blake, executive vice president who also has a bit of longevity with Southern Utah FCU – a 17-year tenure, having started as a part-time loan collector. Twitchell, a Utah State University graduate with a math and physics degree, got into the credit union business after being laid off from an aerospace job in suburban Phoenix. “It was my brother-in-law living in St. George who saw the ad for the credit union job and so I applied,” said Twitchell, noting with a laugh that at the start, “it was literally a two-man operation – myself and another older gentleman who did the books. “I did everything from doing loan collections to cleaning the bathroom,” recalled Twitchell. The CU, then known as St. George Federal Credit Union, had 1,000 members and $1 million in assets. Today Southern Utah FCU, with seven locations including a mortgage office, has 16,000 members spread across the southwest corner of the state. St. George, a retiree haven with a population of 85,000, is located 325 miles south of Salt Lake City near the Arizona line. In recent years the state has witnessed heightened branch expansion from out-of-state banks as well as large Salt Lake City CUs. “Look, we play like a big boy,” said Twitchell who jumped into the CU job by overhauling the operation, introducing certificates of deposits, checking accounts as well as other services. One of Twitchell’s first jobs at the credit union was to scrap an antiquated paper-based accounting and computer system. “We were batching our stuff to Salt Lake City every Wednesday with a paper trail kept on the checks as they were written,” recalled Twitchell. The credit union became one of the first in the country to introduce debit cards, and that was through Visa in 1980. Southern Utah FCU also opened a full-fledged mortgage department in 1990, and this year it averaged $60,000-$70,000 in fees with 30-50 mortgage loans written a month. SUFCU’s return-on-assets stands at 60 to 65 with a 75% loan to asset ratio. “Ed is one of those guys with great personal skills who has managed to win over many new accounts among school teachers and educators by going into the classroom and discussing credit union services,” said Stratton. A well-known Boy Scout leader and teacher in the state serving on Leadership Councils, Twitchell has been known to drop appointments and give extra time to young scouts who need their financial merit badges. Twitchell, a Mormon, has also served as a High Councilman/Bishop in the Green Valley stake or district. Following his departure from the CU at yearend, Twitchell said he hopes to go on Mormon training missions possibly in Australia, England or Ireland. “I’m getting too old to learn another language,” confesses Twitchell, who also has quite a reputation as a “Dutch oven” cook. In fact, Twitchell has singlehandedly organized and cooked full “Dutch oven” beef stews and rib dinners, complete with heavy skillets and eight cast iron pots, for the Utah League of Credit Unions’ annual Presidents Conference held in a canyon campground near St. George. Twitchell said he learned the special cooking skills from his father. “It was always fun cooking for the League crowd, but now I’ll have time to do more of it for the family,” he concluded. – [email protected]

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