WASHINGTON – If experience is the best teacher, then Chuck Zuver has a doctorate degree in "political animal" philosophy needed to navigate the ins and outs of credit union concerns in the capitol city. Zuver, who currently works as a consultant on legislative and regulatory issues primarily for the National Association of Community Credit Unions (NACCU), has been a cornerstone for nearly 20 years in the credit union movement, becoming a reputable fixture in Washington politics. "Many of the judgments made here are determined by the right timing, the implications of those decisions and the congressmen you're dealing with, and Chuck absolutely has the acumen to make a political judgement that is right on target," said Doug Duerr, president/CEO of NASCUS. "Throughout his career, he has developed a political instinct that few in the Capitol have." Zuver started developing those instincts after graduating from Franklin & Marshall College and Georgetown Law School when he worked as the Senate doorkeeper, where he was responsible for maintaining order on the Senate floor and overseeing chamber access. He then worked as a legislative assistant for eight years in former Arizona Senator Carl Hayden's office. Interestingly, his foray into financial services started out on working for the American Bankers Association (ABA). The powerful trade group was looking for reinforcements, and in 1968 Zuver became the trade group's chief lobbyist, working on developing ABA policy on legislative and public affairs issues and carrying out programs in deregulation, bank bribery, money laundering and financial privacy. After 18 years with the ABA, Zuver got a call from a friend asking if he would like to come aboard to help beef up CUNA's Washington office at the request of former president Ralph Swoboda. He would eventually become the executive vice president of governmental affairs and the chief liaison to CUNA's Governmental Affairs Committee. During his tenure at CUNA, he worked closely with the implementation of the Truth in Savings disclosure, which requires all financial institutions to list fees associated with products and services. "It was a family decision to move to CUNA," Zuver recalled. "I had no ill will towards the ABA at all, but after talking with my sons about it working for CUNA allowed me to do more than I could at the ABA." After heading CUNA's D.C. office for 10 years, Zuver decided to branch out on his own working as a consultant for a number of financial powerhouses including Visa and MasterCard primarily in the area of bankruptcy reform. Zuver also worked closely as a consultant with the Virginia Credit Union League on similar legislation. "There were a large group of people – savings and loans, credit cards, finance companies – working on bankruptcy reform," Zuver recalled. "It was such a collective and important issue and years later, it still remains that way." It was in 1999 that interest started to build on forming a trade group that would represent the interests of community-chartered credit unions. Zuver received a call from "a good friend," Pete Crear, CUNA's executive vice president and COO, asking would he be interested in working with the National Association of Community Credit Unions as a lobbyist. Zuver "gladly" accepted the job at the fledgling group. The two-year old organization is comprised of presidents, CEOs and other professionals at 60 credit unions and focuses on the nuances of managing multi-branches, ATM sites and business lending. Its bylaws mandate that four of the association's nine board members be volunteers. An important distinction, Zuver pointed out, because it allows for a real "down in the trenches" perspective on what community credit unions really need to survive. Zuver recalls that six months into the new job, credit unions were allowed to add new select employee groups thanks to the passage of the Credit Union Membership Access Act in 1998. "The challenge for many credit unions that were now able to add entire cities to their field of membership was being able to meet their diverse needs," Zuver said. "It became having to respond to members at different employers, different ethnic groups. And, in order to be successful, you have got to get members of these various groups on your board." Indeed, Zuver was instrumental in modifying NCUA's Community Action Plan (CAP), spending much time talking with Senate Banking Committee Chairman Phil Gramm (R-Texas) who strongly opposed the proposal that would require all federal community credit unions to have plans for serving their entire field of membership, specifically in low-income areas. "He's pragmatic in every sense of the word," said Tom Gaines, president of the Tennessee Credit Union League. "He always has a clear understanding of all the forces and circumstances of an issue. When you're working on the behalf of credit unions in government advocacy, the more you're involved in a credit union's administration, the more singly focused you get. Chuck has the ability to see the big picture for what it really is." CUNA and NCUA officials continue to call on him to recommend board member candidates. He's also served on the board of directors at the Consumer Federation of America and Consumer Credit Counseling Services. As for the biggest challenge facing credit unions today, Zuver said CUNA's Renaissance Commission scheduled to be in final form by press time, will continue "to be a sore spot for many credit unions." "No question, some credit unions will not like many of the final recommendations," he predicted. Meanwhile, he describes his lifestyle these days as "semi-retired," commuting to the DC Credit Union League four times a week to keep his finger on the pulse of concerns that would directly affect community-chartered credit unions. The 68-year old credit union veteran has a son enrolled in medical school in Ireland and another son who works as a lawyer for the National Labor Relations Board. When he does break away from the nonstop pace that is Washington, he loves to travel. He's been to Ireland, France and Switzerland and dreams of an extended vacation in Norway, his grandmother's birthplace. Once a month, he hobnobs with the Ex Checkers Club, a group of ex-financial services professionals, shooting the breeze about timely matters. While golf is a passion, Zuver joked his game is "lousy." Because his father was a civil engineer, Zuver, his mother and sister lived in several places including New Jersey, Minnesota and finally settling in Carlisle, Penn. Carlisle is home to Jim Thorpe, the all-time great athlete whose name is attached to the award given to the most outstanding defensive back in college football each year, Zuver boasts. Given the constantly changing scope of D.C. and its diversity, Zuver said he welcomes the shift in Washington that has brought younger Congress members to the hill. "It really makes it interesting because new blood brings in new ideas," he said. "In the past, issues that weren't always good decisions got pushed forward – these days, they've made it harder to get those (decisions) through. And, sometimes that's a good thing." -

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