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ALEXANDRIA, Va.-After graduating high school, NCUA Information Specialist Cherie Umbel got married and had children, as many women of her generation did. When the marriage did not last, Umbel was forced to enter the full-time working world as a single mother with just a high school diploma. Fortunately, in September of 1977, she found work not too far from home at a small government agency called NCUA. Umbel worked there in the Division of Acquired Assets performing some basic accounting work. During that time, she began working on a degree at Northern Virginia Community College in accounting, but the classes made her yawn and she branched out into photography and many other fields, eventually earning an associate’s degree in general studies. But with the Reagan era came a series of government cut backs that hit hard at home. The Division of Acquired Assets was disbanded and Umbel was laid off. To some this may sound tragic, but for Umbel it became a great opportunity. While NCUA was being pared down elsewhere, an opening existed in the Office of Public Affairs. Umbel accepted the job offer in October of 1981. When Roger Jepsen became the NCUA chairman a few years later, a younger Bob Loftus, working in Congressional Affairs, suggested that his office be combined with the Public Affairs office. Thus, the Office of Public and Congressional Affairs Office, where Umbel now works, was born. When asked if she likes public affairs better than accounting, Umbel did not blink. “Most definitely.I love my new career,” she said. According to Umbel, she really does not have any problems typically associated with dealing with the press. “Sometimes the press can be very affrontive. As with most professions that’s not the way to deal with people you want information from,” she said, but this usually is not the case. She pointed out that, in particular, the credit union trade press really could not afford to be less than diplomatic with the regulatory agency. As a member of Public and Congressional Affairs, Umbel has a wide variety of responsibilities, including the NCUA News newsletter; writing the annual report, and handling the media. She also tells the different NCUA offices when their Web site needs to be updated, does some photography for the agency, provides general information to the public, and directs people on how to find a credit union to join. “Talking to all the people that I get to talk to all the time.I am lucky to have found this career-or it found me,” Umbel said. In fact, she said the only complaint she has is getting up early in the morning. She added that she is very fortunate the credit union people are good people and credit unions are good financial institutions. “I believe in them.” Umbel is a member of Navy Federal Credit Union through one of her two sons and has an account with State Department Federal Credit Union as well. One of the new people Umbel has worked closely with of late is Director of Public and Congressional Affairs Cliff Northup, who stepped into the position after Loftus’ retirement at the end of July. “I think he’ll do a great job,” she said of her new boss, who she described as very pleasant and has useful contacts. Umbel said she thinks Loftus is the one who suggested Northup for the position and wrote in a scrapbook given to Loftus at a retirement party, “You’ve taken care of us even when you left,” she said. Of course, working is not all parties, but some of the most newsworthy times were some of the most interesting, according to Umbel. Especially interesting to Umbel were the Rhode Island private insurance problem, the failure of Penn Square Bank in Chicago, permitting multiple group fields of membership, and the H.R. 1151 (Credit Union Membership Access Act) battle. As times progress, potential problems affecting the credit union community evolved. Just over 18 months ago, Umbel recalls the scramble to prevent any year 2000 date change quirks, which could affect not only credit unions but also the entire U.S. government and the rest of the world. “It was amazing how the government all pulled together,” she explained. Technology has not only created high-tech problems in her job, but also high-tech solutions. “With computers, writing is so much easier.”she explained, but added “Of course it’s really frustrating when it doesn’t work right.” She said technology has changed other aspects of her job: when she used to literally cut and paste the lay out of the agency newsletter together and now a graphic artist just lays it out on the computer. After work, Umbel said she spends most of her time studying at her home in Vienna, Va. or going to school. She has just four more classes left to earn a bachelor’s degree in communications from Trinity College in Washington, D.C. after three years of working on it. [email protected]

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