EAU CLAIRE, Wis. – The deal is done. There's no more rhetoric or battles about this one – the $110 million Citizens Community FCU has finally converted to a mutual savings bank. Approximately four years later from the time the CU first tried to convert, it has succeeded. The new institution will be named Citizens Community Federal. The votes were tallied on Sept. 27, with 1,711, or 64%, of the CU's 2,676 voting members approving the conversion. The voter turnout was way down from 1997′s vote when approximately 9,000 members voted, with 6,200 in favor of the conversion. The original vote didn't stand because prior to the passage of H.R. 1151 a credit union needed a majority of the CU's total membership to approve the conversion. That was changed by 1151 to a majority of those members voting. Credit Union Times spoke with Citizens Community Federal President/CEO Jim Cooley, who declined to comment except for the following: "I'm really proud of the vote and I am excited about the future." The reticent Cooley did issue an official statement in a press release that said, "I think the Eau Claire Community soon will see the benefits we can bring to them operating under our new charter. I'm excited that more people – and now businesses, too – will benefit from the service philosophy we have at Citizens." The CU's reasoning for converting has always revolved around the ability to to do more start-up business lending, commercial business lending, and commercial real estate lending. Its 1997 attempt was strongly opposed by the Wisconsin CU League and especially then president/CEO Ron Halvorsen. The league waged a very public campaign against Citizens, even taking ads out in local newspapers opposing it. Under new league CEO Brett Thompson the league took a different approach. It did what it could to get the word out in the area about the benefits of CU members and the structure of a credit union. The benefits it highlighted included being not-for-profit, democratically controlled, socially responsible and committed to member service. It also made it clear to members of Citizens that there are other CUs in the area they could join. Royal CU, for example, has talked about marketing directly to Citizens' members once the conversion was completed. "We're disappointed that the members voted the way they did, but we respect that. We think we've been successful in getting our message out there. For those members disappointed that they are now part of a savings bank, there are other credit unions out there they can join. That's been our message," said Thompson. [email protected]

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