<p>WASHINGTON – The CUNA elections are underway and the still relatively new system initiated from CUNA's Renewal efforts appears to be working fine so far. CUNA Chairman Barry Jolette, CEO of San Mateo Credit Union in California, admitted recently that prior to CUNA's Renewal efforts he "did not want anything to do with them." His tune has certainly changed since the turn around which started with the 1997 elections. "Nothing is ever perfect but, from my standpoint, I think it's pretty darn good," Jolette said of CUNA's reorganization. Apparently, he is not the only one pleased with the results. Jolette said that he has not heard of any "groundswell" in support of changing any aspects of Renewal. In all his networking with colleagues, he emphasized, "I simply don't hear `let's go back and do it all again.'" In fact, he said that is probably the furthest thing from the minds of CUNA members, who are more interested now in legislative and regulatory advocacy. Jolette explained he was not involved with CUNA at all before the Renewal process, and that prior to that CUNA had about 45 board members and "a zillion" delegates. "I don't know how you can have a good governance like that," he questioned. Additionally, the vote was not one per member credit union; voting was done by the leagues and the number of votes the league received was based upon the number of affiliated credit unions in that state. With CUNA's 2002 elections just around the corner, the races are heating up. CUNA members may make nominations for any of nine open seats on the board through June 17. Voting will take place June 20 through July 29. Winners will be announced in August but will not become effective until CUNA's Symposium and Annual General Meeting (AGM) in September to be held in Orlando this year. The open seats include representatives from each of six districts across the nation. Each of the winners receives a three-year term except for one special election due to an upcoming unexpected vacancy in district six class B for a two-year term. Board officers serve for a one-year term. Credit union candidates must be an employee or voting board member of a nominating credit union. Nominations must be signed in writing by the nominating credit union's chairman or secretary, and seconded in writing by two other CUs in the same district and class. The 24 board seats were originally divided up geographically, starting with the NCUA's six regions and working from there, so CUNA never really had the exact boundaries as the regulator, CUNA Chief Economist Bill Hampel said. The divisions may need to be increased in the future but the progression should be slow, he predicted. Presently, credit union membership by district ranges from 12.4 million (15.9%) to 13.6 million (17.7%), Hampel said. He added that the slowest growth is in the Northeast and the fastest is on the West Coast. The current district divisions are: District 1- Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands; District 2- Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia; District 3- Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee; District 4- Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin; District 5- Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming; and District 6- Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Washington State, American Samoa, Guam, and other Pacific Islands. The election districts are also divided by size, which are selected to represent approximately one-third of credit union membership in each class. However, because some of the larger credit unions have grown so quickly the board made the decision, on the recommendation of the Renewal Review Committee, in 2000 to readjust the size classes annually in the future so that at least 2.5% of member credit unions are represented in every class, according to Hampel. The numbers had become so disproportionate over the five-year period that, for example, in 1996 there were 396 credit unions with more than 40,000 members representing 33.4% of credit union membership and by June 2000 there were 362 credit unions with more than 40,000 members representing 41.4% of all credit union members. Currently, the size classes are: Class A- under 14,000 members; Class B- 14,000 to 51,999 members; Class C- 52,000+ members; and Class D- league presidents. Hampel said that it is likely, upon the board's approval that the Class C category will increase by 1,000 every year and the Class A category will be increased by 1,000 every other year. All classes are rounded to the nearest thousand. In the first set of elections following Renewal, all 24 seats on the board were open, with 10 of the seats having uncontested races. Board Secretary Teresa Hanson explained that an average of 63% of eligible credit unions voted for one of between two and six candidates per contested seat. Since the first Renewal elections eight seats have come open each year, except for nine this year; the average voter participation has averaged 66.7%; between two and four candidates have run uncontested each year; and the average number of candidates per contested seat has been between two and four. Before becoming chairman Jolette chaired CUNA's Governmental Affairs Committee (GAC), as is typically the progression, though the board freely elects the chairman. Currently, seated as the GAC chairman is Texas Credit Union League President and CEO Dick Ensweiler and concerns have been raised about potentially having a league president as the CUNA chair. Jolette explained that chairing the different committees is designed to better prepare the next chairman for the job and to learn different aspects of the business. He sees no problem in allowing a league president to become chairman, even though there has not been one in institutional memory. "Leagues play a tremendously important role in what we do," Jolette defended. He pointed out that at the time of Renewal, credit unions obviously felt league presidents belonged on CUNA's board and so it follows that they thought it would be acceptable for them to chair it as well. He said he does not see a conflict of interest because the chairman can always recuse himself or herself from voting as some board members already do. "Leagues are there for the purpose of representing credit unions and creating a better environment for credit unions.We all have the same general purpose," Jolette concluded. [email protected]</p>

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