WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – A board member serving as chairman for more than a decade is not that unusual among credit unions, but a chairman serving in the position for that long and genuinely understanding the difference between their role and that of senior management and having a good relationship with their credit union's staff is a rarity. Clyde Padgett, 66, chairman of Truliant FCU since 1986 has been, as one staffer of the credit union described him, one of these "rare breed of birds." In April, after 17 years of sitting in the chairman's seat, Padgett stepped down and relinquished the seat to board member Noland Suddeth. Padgett remains a director of Truliant's board, but now he has more time to spend with his wife Marcia of 21 years in their recently-built home in Leesburg, Fla. in northwest Orlando and to resume his hobby of collecting seashells and making shadow boxes and jewelry out of them. But just because the Winston-Salem native spends most of his time now in the Sunshine State, he doesn't have any difficulty finding an excuse to return to Winston-Salem to visit with his children and other family who live there. Padgett is also still chair of Truliant's government affairs committee, and in early June he traveled to Capitol Hill with other credit union representatives for a Hike the Hill visit. Padgett always advocated that credit unions should be involved in federal and state government affairs, and in this legislative session he said "it's vital to credit unions that they're actively involved because there are so many things like bankruptcy reform and reg relief that aren't getting done because of politics." He's also been a strong believer and active participant in volunteering since he worked at the former Western Electric Company which was once owned by AT&T. It was there in the early 1980s that Padgett became a member of North Carolina Works FCU, as AT&T Family FCU was formerly called (prior to being called North Carolina Works FCU, the credit union was Radio Shops FCU). He volunteered as loan officer of the credit union from 1981-1983, and then as loan officer/assistant treasurer from 1983-1984. N.C. Works FCU changed its name to AT&T Family FCU in 1984, and that same year Padgett became a board director. He was elected chairman two years later. "Clyde has had the unique gift of knowing what his role was as chairman versus what the role is of Trulient's president and CEO," recalled Marc Schaefer, president/CEO of Truliant. "He's been a vital force and contributor to the credit union, and he bridged the gap between our active staff and volunteers." Schaefer is familiar with credit unions where the CEO and chairman have had a difficult time cooperating, and he opined that credit unions' evolution is partly to blame. When credit unions are formed, he explained, volunteers tend to do most of the work. Then, as the credit union grows, most of that work is turned over to staff and management. Unfortunately, says Schaefer, some directors are reluctant to let go of their authority. "It's an on-going challenge to have a good relationship between a credit union CEO and the board. There's a tendency for someone in the chairman's seat to say `I'll go in and run things.' In truth, the board's responsibility is to set direction and provide oversight, and it's management's job to run the operation," says Schaefer. Padgett agreed that he's "observed situations where some volunteers begin to look at the credit union like it's theirs, not their members." He opined that "it frequently comes down to egos. The board wants to be more powerful than it should." Padgett's philosophy as chairman has been to "find the best possible people you can to operate the credit union and then get out of their way." "I worked hard with the board to get them to come to a consensus not to be involved in the daily operations of the credit union. Before I became chairman, the volunteer treasurer pretty much ran the credit union, and I was determined not to let that happen again," Padgett recalled. Padgett actually has sat in both the chairman's and CEO's seat at Truliant. In 1993, shortly after he retired from Western Electric, AT&T Family FCU's former president/CEO David Daetwyler stepped down. The board asked Padgett to serve as acting CEO until they found a replacement for Daetwyler. Padgett said the board, having never had to hire a CEO, thought the process would be easy. Actually, it took a year-and-a-half for the board to find Daetwyler's successor – Marc Schaefer. So in the interim, from mid-1993 to 1995, while he served as the credit union's chairman, Padgett wore two hats. Schaefer gives Padgett a lot of credit for "making it easier for me to come on board. It would have been a lot more difficult for me to come on as CEO if Clyde hadn't laid the groundwork." That groundwork included: converting the `manager' position to `president/CEO'; creating the `chief financial officer' position as a staff position and taking on the responsibility from volunteer `treasurer' position; moving volunteer directors from day-to-day involvement in the credit union's operations to policy development/oversight responsibilities; refining the CU's budgeting process; initiating a long-range, strategic planning and business plan preparation process; and initiating the development of comprehensive compensation and incentive programs for employees. In addition, said Schaefer, Padgett developed a "friendly reporting system and structure of participative communication for the exchange of ideas." Prior to this latest development for Truliant, Schaefer said the environment was more "adversarial." "Clyde has had the rare ability to raise the bar and challenge people to meet it," he said. Lisa Warlich, senior marketing analyst for Truliant added that, "Clyde expects nothing less from himself than from the other volunteers and staff of the credit union. He leads by example and treats everyone as if they're the most vital person to the credit union, regardless if they're a volunteer, management or other staff member. He's never been afraid of change and understood what needed to be done for Truliant to grow. "Clyde and Marc (Schaefer) have made a perfect team," she said. One example Warlich offered to illustrate Padgett's ability to recognize the value that both the 360 employees of Truliant and volunteers bring to the CU is the community involvement program Padgett formed that promotes staff and volunteer involvement in all the communities where Truliant operates and employees live. In addition to his volunteer work with Truliant FCU, Padgett has also been actively involved in other credit union-related volunteer work such as being a member of NAFCU's Government Action Network, a director of Carolinas' Credit Union Foundation; and he served on the program development committee and the finance committee of the North Carolina Credit Union Network. He also served as chairman of the Winston-Salem Fiscal and Regulatory Affairs Committee – Schaefer is now chair of the committee – and has represented the credit union with the city's Chamber of Commerce. "Winston-Salem is as big bank community. Clyde's taken the seats out from some of the banks on a number of times," said Schaefer. These days, as he unpacks cartons and gets settled in his new home in Leesburg, Padgett spends a lot of time thinking about his future plans. But he took a moment to reflect back on the years he's spent volunteering for Truliant. "It's been one of the best experiences of my life," he said. -


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