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ARLINGTON, Va. – A four-month search to find a new president for NASCUS has ended. Mary Martha Fortney, a 10-and-a-half year veteran of the association who had served as acting president/CEO since Aug. 1, 2003 when former president/CEO Doug Duerr was dismissed, was named president/CEO of NASCUS. Fortney was one of seven candidates who was included on a list of seven finalists for the spot. A seven-person search committee chaired by Jim Forney, superintendent of credit unions, Iowa Department of Commerce, Credit Union Division and which included four state regulators – NASCUS Chairman Roger Little, deputy commissioner, Credit Union Division, Division of Financial Institutions of the Michigan Office of Financial Insurance Services served as ex officio for the committee – and three members of the NASCUS Council including Chairman Michael Litzau, president/CEO, Colorado Central CU, received 44 applications for the opening and whittled the list down to the final seven after reviewing applicants’ resumes. The names of other candidates who applied for or were considered for the position were kept confidential, but former NCUA Board member Geoff Bacino, a co-founder of the National Association of State Chartered Credit Unions which merged with the NASCUS Credit Union Council in 1999, had been rumored as a possibility for the position. Bacino, however, is joining CENTRIX Financial as executive vice president for legislative affairs. Final interviews were conducted by the search committee on Jan. 4 and 5 before it made its recommendation to the NASCUS Board. Little said the board had the choice of accepting the search committee’s recommendation, done additional interviews on their own, or directed the search committee to conduct more interviews. The NASCUS Board accepted the search committee’s recommendation of Fortney. “Mary Martha has proven she can do the job,” said Little. “The search committee did a thorough and diligent national search. Despite her career history with NASCUS, nothing was guaranteed, but I’m confident the search committee made the right choice. Mary Martha has demonstrated her considerable talent and ability by serving as our acting president/CEO these past five months and she has served NASCUS with distinction since 1993. Her familiarity with the unique structure of the organization, her clear understanding of our goals and priorities, and her ability to lead were qualities that the Search Committee found precisely suited our needs.” Fortney said she also never assumed she was a shoe-in for the president’s spot. “You always think you have the perfect credentials for a position, but good Catholic girl that I am with good Catholic guilt, I thought of all the things I could have possibly done that would have caused me not to get the job. But I accepted the position with a measure of both humility and pride. It’s a challenge for which my past 10 years have been preparing me,” said the 56-year old Fortney. But despite her uncertainty over whether she’d be selected for the position, the former vice president of regulatory affairs for NASCUS never left a doubt she was interested in the president’s spot. She threw her hat into the ring to be considered for the position soon after Duerr’s dismissal. “I made it very clear from the beginning that I wanted the position and felt well-qualified for it,” she said. “But even when it was down to the final stretch, there were no guarantees.” Over her more than 10-year career with NASCUS, Fortney has also been director of accreditation and communications which was her position when she began her NASCUS employment. Before becoming acting president, Fortney served as staff liaison to the NASCUS Association and Credit Union Council Regulatory Development Committees. Prior to joining NASCUS, she worked as director of Agency Liaison in the Office of Presidential Correspondence in the Carter White House for nearly four years, and for 12 years on Capitol Hill, where she was employed as the legislative director for a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and as majority staff director for the Subcommittee on General Oversight and Investigations of the House Committee on Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs. Fortney realizes she is currently the only president/CEO of a national credit union association, but she cited NCUA Board members Jo Ann Johnson and Deborah Matz as examples of “professional and capable” women who are in credit union leadership roles. She added that “NASCUS and its boards have been well represented in the past by women.” On the state regulator side, she cited by example Jerrie Lattimore, administrator of the North Carolina Credit Union Division, Sharon Whiddon, financial administrator for the Florida Division of Banking, Ginger Larson, director of the Wisconsin Office of Credit Unions, Linda Jekel, director, Washington Division of Credit Unions, and former Illinois Supervisor of the Credit Union Division Sarah Vega. Among some of the women who are credit union presidents/CEOs who have represented the NASCUS Council are former Council Chair Lori Rush, president/CEO, Universal 1 CU; Grace Mayo, president/CEO, Telesis Community CU; and Jo Anne Filwock, president/CEO, Financial Health CU. But Fortney said if there’s any barrier she’d like to see broken, “it’s the one that keeps most women from heading very large asset credit unions. There are just a few exceptions to that, but too few. “Obviously there will be some people who will play this up, but I’m confident most people will be watching to see me continue to do well, not to see me stumble,” she said. That includes, she said, former NASCUS president/CEO Doug Duerr who contacted Fortney to wish her well when he learned the news of her appointment. Still, Fortney realizes that she has become president/CEO of NASCUS at a critical time in the credit union movement’s history. “Coming in as president any time is very critical, but NASCUS has clearly matured over the more than 10 years that I’ve been here. NASCUS has played and will continue to play an important part in the credit union movement. Clearly we’ve become the authoritative voice of the state credit union system,” she said. Fortney continued to explain that during the crafting of H.R. 1151, “it was key that the method by which NCUA works with state regulators is statutorily contained in H.R. 1151 with regard to writing MBL and PCA regulations. Now, with the federal system adopting many state initiatives, it lends not only passing credence to, but verifies the important part played by the state system.” Fortney sees NASCUS’ main role now as fostering the growth and strength of the dual chartering system. “Everyone agrees that there needs to be the dual chartering option. Working in partnership is key and critical, promoting the option is first and foremost,” she said. Also on NASCUS’ radar screen are taxation challenges like UBIT, preemption of state laws, capital reform, and reforming the administration of NCUA to clearly separate the functions of regulator and share insurance fund management. “Although NASCUS firmly believes the NCUSIF should remain within NCUA and NCUA should remain an independent federal agency, we believe a clearer distinction between the chartering, regulatory and supervisory functions, and the insurance function needs to be made, as the GAO recommended in 1991″ she said, emphasizing that NASCUS “commends the NCUA Board on focusing more attention on its two roles and the distinction between NCUA’s management of the share insurance fund and the agency’s regulatory responsibilities for federal credit unions.” Fortney would also like to grow NASCUS’ accreditation program – there are currently 27 state regulatory agencies that are NASCUS accredited -expand NASCUS’ educational offerings, enhance effective state examination programs, and continue to build partnerships with CUNA and NAFCU, as well as organizations and associations such as the National Council of State Legislators, the Securities Administrators Association, the State Financial Regulators Roundtable, and the Conference of State Bank Supervisors.” “NASCUS, like CUNA and NAFCU, are all vital credit union associations, but our membership differentiates us,” says Fortney. “We have state regulators that are government employees that comprise our membership, as well as CEOs of state-chartered credit unions. It’s not our name that differentiates us from the credit union trade associations, it’s our membership,” Fortney explains. But does NASCUS’ unique membership and the fact that the association’s president/CEO has to answer to a regulator board and a credit union board, also create unique pressures for Fortney? She doesn’t think so. “The responsibilities I have with working with two boards isn’t anything new. Their responsibilities dovetail nicely,” Fortney says. “There is no internal power struggle between the two, and it is inappropriate to represent two boards as being antagonists. The two boards work well together and have great respect for one another. As difficulties have arisen over the years, the internal processes have developed to deal with them. The two boards mesh, even though it may not look like that from the outside. There may be differing opinions on certain issues, but there’s never a conflict of interest. I don’t feel sandwiched between the NASCUS Board and the Council Board.” At this point since her presidency is still so new – Fortney was interviewed three days after she was named to the position – she said it’s “too premature” to know if there will be any additional organizational changes at NASCUS. “I don’t envision any sweeping changes or makeovers,” she said, “except that my former position is now vacant and as CEO I have to hire someone for that staff position. Any changes will evolve naturally.” “I always envisioned myself working for a policy making association that was committed to its purpose and that I could commit to,” said Fortney. “That’s just what I’m doing now and it’s that commitment that I bring to my new job.” -

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