ARLINGTON, Va. – Gilbert Gonzalez, the Department of Agriculture official whom industry sources say is a possible candidate to be nominated to the NCUA Board, spent most of his pre-Washington professional life quietly but passionately building partnerships for economic development, according to some of his former associates. Gonzalez, a Republican, would be filling the vacant board seat left by NCUA Chairman Dennis Dollar. Dollar's term officially expired this April. Gonzalez spent much of his young professional life in San Antonio, after earning a bachelors degree in business administration from the University of Texas in San Antonio. In his early career, Gonzalez worked in parts of the financial services industry for several San Antonio-based banks and savings and loans. "Gil Gonzalez is the kind of man you want in community development," said Clara Ruiz Engle, community development officer for the San Antonio regional office of Wells Fargo bank, "because his heart is really in it." Engle, who confessed that she considers Gonzalez a friend, has served on various boards of directors of local non-profit community development firms with him, including the San Antonio Business Development Fund, which changed its name later to the Community Development Loan Fund, which Gonzalez founded in 1993 to help channel the lending power of San Antonio area banks into the small businesses and neighborhoods of San Antonio. In addition to his heart, Engle cited humility as Gonzalez's other great strength when it came to development work. "Gil was never one to get into the spotlight or take a lot of credit," Engle said. "His style was to work behind the scenes to put the partnerships together and then let the partners get the credit," she added. And in 1993, in the wake of the new Community Reinvestment Act regulations, there were plenty of partnerships to suggest, according to Manuel Villa, president of Via Technology, a computer systems company based in San Antonio. Villa serves on the board of the CDLF and has known Gonzalez since the early 1980s, when the two were teammates on a softball team organized by their San Antonio savings and loan employer. "Gil had a gift for being able to see the need for the loans and the need to make the loans," Villa said. Although Gonzalez and he were not as close during the time when Gonzalez was founding the Business Development Fund, he said that by the time he joined the group's board in the mid 1990′s, Gonzalez was going full press into the development effort. Unlike many community development efforts, which have focused on housing, the Business Development Fund and later the Community Loan Fund focused on supporting San Antonio's small businesses, Villa explained. There are probably hundreds of San Antonio families who remember Gonzalez and the Loan Fund with a lot of gratitude, he said. For a family, its business is its heart, Villa explained, and said Gonzalez had a heart for helping sustain San Antonio family businesses by channeling them financial support. Villa cited growing the Loan Fund's small business portfolio from a very modest beginning to over $2 million as one of the highlights of Gonzalez' time leading the Fund, to which he added getting the Fund certified as a Community Development Financial Institution by the U.S. Treasury Department in 1997. He'll Need a CU Education However, both Villa and Engle confirmed previous reports that Gonzalez' work in San Antonio development did not include any work with credit unions. Villa reported that he and Gonzalez had spoken about the need for a credit union, particularly among the largely undocumented Hispanic workers in the San Antonio area. "We knew a credit union would help them with savings and with sending money home without having to pay the steep fees," Villa said, but Gonzalez had gone to Washington before they had been able to get one going, Villa said. Cliff Rosenthal, executive director of the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions, noted that NCUA Board Chairman Dennis Dollar had been unusual in that he had had some credit union experience. Credit union experience among NCUA Board members has not generally been the case, Rosenthal noted. Rosenthal said that a lack of credit union experience notwithstanding, the Federation has been encouraged by reports about Gonzalez's development background. In his current development capacity, Gonzalez has spoken at conferences where community development credit unions have attended and has seemed knowledgeable about development issues, Rosenthal said. [email protected]

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