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ALEXANDRIA, Va.-Aside from the sticker shock of the cost of living difference between Mississippi and Northern Virginia, NCUA Chairman Dennis Dollar was happy to take on his responsibilities at the agency. As of September 13, Dollar was designated chairman of the NCUA Board by President George W. Bush with even more responsibilities, but he’s exactly where he wants to be. He had been serving as acting chairman since February. Dollar is no stranger to hard work. After graduating from the University of Mississippi on May 8, 1979, he went and paid his qualifying fee of $15 to run for the Mississippi House of Representatives the next day. He ultimately defeated an eight-year incumbent by walking around the entire district and knocking on every door, sometimes twice. The entire campaign was run on $3,000. At 22, Dollar was the youngest legislator ever in the state of Mississippi. By age 30, Dollar decided it was time to move on and ran for the Mississippi Secretary of State in 1983. He was narrowly defeated in this race. Following the loss, Dollar stayed below the political radar for more than a decade. He entered the real estate business and also worked in education. In 1992, Gulfport VA Federal Credit Union, in Gulfport, Miss. offered Dollar the position of president and CEO. He had no prior credit union experience, but the credit union was more interested in his experience as a business leader. Dollar commented that he would always appreciate the board of directors at Gulfport who taught him so much about the credit union movement. Then, in 1996, while still at the credit union, Dollar made another stab at holding public office. He ran for the U.S. Congress with support from such leaders as Senator Trent Lott (R-Miss.). Unfortunately for Dollar at the time, he lost the election, but fortunately for the credit union movement, Lott kept him in mind and contacted Dollar about the open seat on the NCUA Board. “God always has a better plan for me than my own,” he said. Dollar called serving on the NCUA Board “the best of both worlds.” He explained, “I had come to enjoy credit unions.but still had a political fire that burned.” The time that Dollar has served on the board has been an extremely important period in the history of credit unions. From the AT&T case to the Credit Union Membership Access Act in the legislative arena, as well as Reg-Flex, the Community Action Plan (CAP), and the new incidental powers rule, which all have the potential for long-term impact. Other big issues to hit the Washington D.C.-Metropolitan area outside the credit union community include former-President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, possibly the closest presidential race in U.S. history, and most recently, watching the smoke drifting up from the Pentagon building from his office on September 11. The airline industry has been dealt a particularly hard blow by the attacks in New York City and Arlington, Va. However, Dollar does not see this as a potentially ruinous situation for the airline-sponsored credit unions. Instead, NCUA is keeping an eye on all credit unions in the marketplace right now. “Most credit unions are in a very strong financial position. Many [airline-sponsored credit unions] have diversified by bringing in more SEGs,” Dollar explained. He added that he continues to preach what he said recently to Ohio credit unions, advising them “to be as diligent as ever, if not more so.” Mainly, credit unions just have to make sure they don’t let short-term fluctuation become a long-term problem. Credit unions are experiencing a side variety of reactions to the terrorist attacks, from extra withdrawals due to layoffs to added deposits from the tanking stock market. Dollar reassured that there is “no undue cause for concern.” If anything, he pointed out, this experience demonstrates how credit unions cannot afford a “one-size-fits-all” regulator. One of Dollar’s key aims since he has been on the NCUA Board is to provide regulatory flexibility where appropriate. He said that while bankers have broader authorities under the law, much more could be done to provide regulatory flexibility to credit unions. For example, Dollar’s Reg-Flex proposal would provide well-managed, well-capitalized credit unions exemptions from certain regulations, including the fixed asset cap. Dollar hopes to have his Reg-Flex proposal finalized at the November board meeting. He wanted to have it sooner, but the large number of comments it received, mostly positive, has slowed the process. Other items that Dollar praised as regulatory streamlining were the incidental powers regulation, the flexible examination schedule, and the Credit Union Service Organization rule. The board unanimously approved all three proposals. “One of the things I’m most proud of is that we’ve accomplished all of our streamlining without lowering our standards one bit,” Dollar explained. This was the great philosophical debate that Dollar always encountered with former-NCUA Chairman Norman D’Amours. D’Amours felt that credit unions should be regulated to serve the underserved, while Dollar believes that regulatory impediments were exactly what was keeping credit unions from serving low-income areas. Dollar’s `less is more’ theory may be proven correct. NCUA is breaking records of low-income areas added to credit unions’ FOMs this year, with more than seven million new potential members added to credit unions FOMs solely in designated underserved areas. NCUA streamlined the SEG approval process and made application available over the Internet for groups under 500 potential members, which the majority are. “The biggest deterrent is too much regulatory process in the way.I think it makes the case that we don’t need CAP,” Dollar advocated. The CAP reg, approved by sponsor Board Member Yolanda Wheat and D’Amours over Dollar’s objection, requires community chartered credit unions to submit to NCUA a plan of how it intends to serve the entire community it is applying to serve. The rule becomes effective January 1, 2002, but Dollar hopes to have it overturned by then. In streamlining some of the agencies regulations, Dollar also hopes to shave some off the NCUA budget. He has vowed to cut 4% of the agency’s staff by cutting the unnecessary full-time equivalents (FTEs) that are currently vacant over the next two years, the remainder of Dollar’s term. Like a true businessman, Dollar pointed out, “It is better to improve the efficiency of an organization without layoffs. It allows you to retain your investment in human capital.” When not wearing his credit union regulator’s cap, Dollar dons a baseball cap. Though Dollar (a self-described “die hard baseball fan”) is no longer directly involved in baseball, he played as a child and coached little league teams from the time he was in high school until about six years ago. Dollar described his dream evening as dinner with the family before settling in to watch a Braves game. He also tries to go to games in the towns that he travels to for NCUA. Dollar indicated a cabinet in his office that he said contains memorabilia of all his loves: family portraits, baseball, and Ole Miss football. However, with his son, Chris, a junior at the University of Tennessee, and 16-year-old daughter, Lindsay, little time is left for family dinners at their home in Burke, Va. Sometimes it’s just Dollar and his wife, Janey, who taught school in Mississippi but is in sales now. Dollar said that he expects to retire working in some capacity within the credit union community after his term on the NCUA Board expires in 2003. He did not rule out the possibility of running for public office again, but for now he said he will “quit while he’s playing .500 ball” after his two election wins and losses. [email protected]

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