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<p>SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Newly confirmed NCUA Board member JoAnn Johnson promised an open door approach at the agency for credit union officials while urging them to be politically active on the state and federal level. “I want each of you to be mindful that political activism is the key to your long-term success,” the former Iowa state senator told members of the California Credit Union League who gathered here April 2-3 to map political strategy and lobby the Legislature. “Banks understand this and you must ensure that their voices aren’t the only ones heard up at your state capitol or in Congress,” Johnson said during the second day of the league’s Government Relations Rally. “Credit unions do so many good things and it’s important that you do not keep that secret from the legislators and the media.” Johnson, making one of her first speeches since being confirmed to the NCUA Board, was scheduled to be officially sworn in Friday, April 5. “I’m very much looking forward to being an official bureaucrat,” she said. “I learned the skills of a legislator and the need to hear all sides of an issue and to chart a course to an equitable solution,” Johnson said. “I will be continuing that policy at the NCUA.” Johnson recalled that during her first run for the Iowa state Senate, credit unions were instrumental in her successful campaign and had gotten involved early in the campaign. “They didn’t ask me to support this issue or that issue,” she said. “All they asked of me was to keep an open mind.” Once the Iowa league decided to support her – her opponent was a banker – credit union members volunteered their time, spread the word of her candidacy through their newsletters and went door-to-door to gather support “. . . July and August are very hot and humid in Iowa and yet the Iowa league identified credit union members who would meet me in different towns throughout my district and help me door knock in the evening,” Johnson said. “I will tell you they were the only organization that stepped up to the plate to do that. And the grassroots efforts of my credit union members will never be forgotten.” She said California league members could not only help determine who gets elected but could influence the bills coming out of the Legislature. Like her experience in Iowa, she urged them to get involved early in a campaign and to build relationships with candidates and elected officials. “I want to emphasize the important role you play as a state league in shaping legislation that affects you on a daily basis,” Johnson said. “As you all know, this is an election year, and it is imperative that you get out and meet candidates early in their campaign. Educate them on credit union issues. And ask them to keep an open mind, just as the (Iowa) league did of me. Support those who are supportive of your philosophy by doing those day-to-day tasks – by helping to knock on doors, by addressing envelopes and by making phone calls. “It’s so much easier to have educated supportive legislators in place than to have to change someone’s mindset later on,” she said. As for her role at NCUA, Johnson said she believed that credit unions “should have sound viable options that provide the maximum opportunity available to extend services to their members.” She added that the long-term viability of the federal charter “will hinge on the federal credit unions’ ability to compete in a changing financial marketplace. “Certainly more can be done, and as a board member you can be assured I will continue efforts to provide flexibility where appropriate and allowable within the Federal Credit Union Act,” Johnson said. “However, in many instances our efforts to provide needed flexibility are limited by statutory constraints imposed by Congress. That is another reason why political involvement is so important.” Johnson said other goals at NCUA included the “wise use of resources.” “I want to be sure that NCUA core duties are done extremely well, maintaining a robust share insurance fund and an effective supervision program, critical elements to the independent credit union movement,” she noted. Johnson also said she would maintain an open door policy at NCUA and work to be a “facilitator” of solutions within the NCUA and the credit union industry. “I firmly believe it is the responsibility of the regulator to regulate and it’s the job of the credit union board and management to manage each institution,” Johnson said. “I also know that reasonable people can disagree on an issue and still respect each other’s viewpoint. I want to let you know that I will always listen to your perspective on an issue and I will provide you with a fair hearing. “With so many people continuing to join credit unions around the nation, more Americans are depending on you and me every day to make sure that credit unions remain safe, sound and accessible,” she said. Others speaking during the two-day meeting here included California Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante and Beth Dooley, deputy commissioner for credit unions in the state Department of Financial Institutions. “If there was a way of me giving you a standing ovation, I would do so – a one-man ovation on behalf of all of those you are going to have an impact on,” Bustamante said. [email protected]</p>

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