LINCOLN HILLS, Calif. – When Tom Augustine retired as president of the former Oregon Credit Union League nearly 10 years ago, he freely admits it was time to begin this new phase that would allow for more leisure and all it entails. Timing had much to do with Augustine ending his 30-year career in the movement, but he had to be sure that his legacy had an impact on the growth of credit unions in what many consider to be one of the more progressive industry states. “There were so many opportunities for credit unions then,” Augustine said. “We had to decide which direction we should move first. We set the stage for a lot of things to happen.” Indeed, Augustine is credited with bringing Oregon’s credit unions in closer alignment with the legislative process including garnering support from NCUA to rewrite state statutes that continue to have an impact on the movement here. Today, he and Lisa, his wife of 45 years, spend their time working out, playing bocci ball, visiting their daughters and grandchildren in Washington and Arizona and taking excursions to Canada, Mexico and Europe. Augustine quips he spent the last 30 years of his career poring over credit union documents. Now, he juggles a number of novels for pleasure reading. A native of Chicago, Augustine began his credit union career in 1965 as a volunteer at what was then Phoenix Employees Federal Credit Union. Quickly making a name for himself, he soon was appointed to the credit union’s board of directors and later the assistant manager. Even today as bankruptcy reform continues to trudge along, Augustine recalls the pioneering use of debt counseling more than 30 years ago for Phoenix’s credit unions as a way to avoid the spiral of out-of-control spending. Augustine was instrumental in setting up a bill payer service that provided assistance to members who were struggling to make timely payments. Couples were required to attend a weekly class on budgeting and spending with the condition that the debt consolidation service would cease should they not follow through with the program. “These were people from all walks of life, all economic backgrounds,” Augustine said. “Debt counseling was fairly new then but just as it was back then, there’s still a large need for it.” When a colleague became an official at what was then the Oregon Credit Union League, he sought out Augustine to make the move north to become the association’s assistant managing director. With two preschoolers and wife Lisa, Augustine remembers being “quite happy” where he was but after some soul searching, decided that he could have more outreach working for a league. In 1972, the family moved to Oregon and Augustine became a part of the league’s tiny staff, which included three field consultants that reported directly to him. As assistant managing director, he handled educational programs, put together workshops and managed the central credit union. Prior to the establishment of the corporate central credit union system, the league worked in sync with its central coordinating various activities together. By far, Augustine readily admits the biggest venture became knowing how to navigate the governmental affairs waters, which initially was a stumble-as-you-go tightrope. “Learning the process, learning how to get things done in a legislative arena at a time when credit unions were not embracing the political process posed some challenges,” Augustine recalled. “Credit unions felt they were the good guys and people would give them what they wanted. But getting what you wanted required working with the regulators, getting to know legislators and being advocates for credit unions.” During his tenure, Augustine continued to remind credit union CEOs and other state league presidents to take the responsibility of dealing with governmental affairs very seriously. Nine months into his new position, the managing director left and the league’s board asked Augustine if he would take on an acting role. Without hesitation, he said yes at the same time putting his application in for the vacant position. While the board conducted its search, Augustine sought out expertise from other league presidents particularly in the areas of field of membership concerns and legislative maneuvering. When he became the managing director in 1979, Augustine recalls the state had 263 credit unions with the largest credit union in Oregon having $25 million in assets and total assets for the industry standing at $250 million. Field of membership had yet to penetrate the marketplace due to regulatory constraints and limited advertising resources. Still, Augustine said he’s most proud of the league’s role in changing the state statutes to expand membership and NCUA’s cooperative role to make the proposal a reality. “He was certainly ahead of his time in terms of encouraging grass root participation in governmental affairs,” said Gene Poitras, president of Credit Union Association of Oregon, who started working with Augustine in 1975 as a senior vice president. “It was a lonely task (in the capitol) and he did a lot of work that probably went under-appreciated.” In addition to becoming more politically vocal, the league sought to introduce the early vestiges of data processing and how to disseminate the concept throughout the state. There was some debate on whether the league should buy the resources or contract services out to individual brokers. Augustine recalls some of the larger credit unions felt they “could do it better themselves” while smaller ones formed partnerships. CUNA Data Services partly formed because state leagues just didn’t have the resources to build up electronic processing, Augustine said. Besides league president, Augustine has served as president of OCUL Services, Inc. and CU Insurance Inc., and treasurer and general manager of Oregon Corporate Central Credit Union. He also served on a number of committees for CUNA, the Association of Credit Union League Executives and the American Society of Association Executives. Since his retirement in 1992, the league has undergone a number of changes including changing its name in 2000 in part to make those outside of the sector more familiar with its structure. Most recently, the association has made strides through CUNA’s Small Business Committee formed more than a year ago to explore the needs of small businesses and its potential for the credit unions industry. Indeed, a member-business lending rule that mirrors rules for federal credit unions took effect in August and defines a member business loan and steps to implement such a program including maximum individual and aggregate loan limits, collateral requirements, and prohibited loans. Looking forward, Augustine reflects on industry challenges that hamper credit union progress today. Specifically, the “over-regulation” that has plagued strategic planning in part because state regulators are abdicating their regulatory authority to NCUA. “I don’t mean to say that credit unions allow over-regulation to happen but there needs to be a real understanding of the issues, knowing the law and what’s at stake,” Augustine said. He’s also proud of Oregon’s track record with community causes explaining it’s a reciprocal process. “Years ago, we saw it as a responsibility that if you take something out of the community, you should give in return,” he said, adding that sort of momentum should continue to be pivotal for state leagues. Friends of Augustine who would like to reach him can call him at (916) 408-1485. -

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