DENVER – He is regarded as the consummate lobbyist –well-versed, smart, a man committed to credit unions, witty andgenerous, sought out by lawmakers for his opinions on everythingfrom pornography to gun control, and a guy who carries around acopy of the U.S. Constitution in his pocket. “I guess I like toremind legislators when discussing credit unions that there is areason the framers of the Constitution wrote in the preamble, `wethe people ' and that we need to look at the face of democracy andits tools,” declares the 59-year-old John P. Sheehy, Jr.-thatlong-time and now retired lobbyist for the Colorado Credit UnionSystem. Because of health reasons – a defective heart valve –Sheehy, nicknamed by both peers and lawmakers as “Big Bad John”because of his size – 6'4 and tipping the scales at 260 – formallyretired last September as senior vice president of governmentrelations. But he continues to win accolades for his League work.“John is an `institution' at the Colorado League and in thelegislature and his name is synonymous with political success,”commented Carla Hedrick, chairman of the League who also ispresident/CEO of Denver Community FCU. She lamented that Sheehy's“magical” skills are sorely missed now that he has finally quit theLeague though his advice remains in demand. Sheehy, who stilltracks CU-related bills for the League and serves as chairman ofGov. Bill Owen's Council of Advisors on Consumer Credit, looks backon his 30-year League career as extremely fulfilling “and veryrewarding.” He began as a league representative at the League outof Emporia State College in Kansas in 1973 where his boss wasCarroll Beach, also a revered – and now retired – president and CEOof the Colorado League. With his business degree and background inaccounting, Sheehy's first job was auditing CUs, but he soonmigrated to the political side as Beach saw where his talents lay.Beach, who also wears the consummate mantle having been called “anindustry icon” and the “most powerful missionary” for CUs, retiredfrom the Colorado CEO post in June 2001, later taking a consultingjob with CUSC Corp. in Atlanta. “My friend, John, is an individualwho has never taken himself too seriously but possesses an uncannyknack of knowing what to say and how to act as he keeps vigilantover any law, bill or regulation that might impact credit unions,”said Beach. Because “so much of what he says comes from the heart,lawmakers always listen and he earns their respect,” according toanother ex-co-worker, Duane Bruno, chief operating officer of DPSCU of Denver and a former executive vice president of the League.“He's a class guy who has done so much for Colorado on so manylevels when there was talk of taxation to any number of issues,”said Bruno. Those challenges over the years, recalls Sheehy, haveranged from allowing CUs to have community charters, a test ofstate law on interest rate ceilings, and the “once a member alwaysa member” fight in 1975. “When I started, I really had no idea whata lobbyist was supposed to do, but Carroll presented me with a listof helpful hints and armed with that, I began to find out all Icould about what it takes to do the job,” said Sheehy who firstbought a legislative handbook which gave details about the personallife of every Colorado lawmaker. The handbook “gave details abouteach legislator's business, personal interests, their background,upbringing, schools, church, memberships, business or cooperativeinterests etc,” said Sheehy. The handbook was really a primer “onwhy they wanted to be a legislator, and I simply stored thisinformation in my mind to build an effective relationship with eachlegislator.” His basic technique, he said, was to “talk to alegislator about their own interests, issue or family beforebringing up my credit union issue.” “Sometimes you found out thatdifferent legislators were basically anti-co-op in which case Ireferred to credit unions as `capitalists with a heart.'”a tie-inthat sometimes had appeal, said Sheehy. Relying on one tool of thetrade, he recalls using “decoy” legislation with bankers that wouldgain their attention as well as opponents “while we passed otherlegislation that we really wanted.” “In 1977 we introduced a billthat would have allowed credit unions to become depositories forpublic funds, but I think the bankers only reviewed Section 1,”remembers Sheehy. “Section 2 of the bill was what we really wantedand that included restoring credit unions' ability to havecommunity charters.” The bill was finally passed and also includedaccess to ATM networks and allowing small groups of employees tojoin an existing CU. Over the years, said Sheehy, the lobbyists'role has changed. “When I started in the mid to late 1980's, eachmajor company had its own lobbyist who was an employee of thecompany or association, but in 1988 at least in Colorado there wasa transition to have hired lobbyists, `hired guns' or`mercenaries,'” said Sheehy. Today at least 75% of the lobbyingcore is individually contracted lobbyists. Another bit of learningthe lobbying trade, Sheehy says is in tracking the “Congressionalambitions” of state lawmakers since that “can make you a moreeffective lobbyist once these legislators reach Congress.” AmongColorado lawmakers he listed for that group are: Sen. Hank Brown,ex-Sen. Gary Hart, Reps. Roy Kococek, Pat Schroeder, Joel Hefly,Diana DeGette, Mark Udall and Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell. Andthen there are the “Credit Union Champions” – those who support orintroduce CU legislation “knowing up front there will be heavyopposition from the banks and perhaps others but still does his orher best to get it passed.” In 30 years “only seven legislators fitinto my definition” and among that group are Reps. Bob Ore, PaulSchaur, Shawn Mitchell and Sens. Dick Mutsebaugh, Ken Ester,Stephanie Takis and James Kadlecek. Sheehy, who over the years hashad key roles in many of CUNA's major campaigns including H.R. 1151in 1998-99, says CUNA still “calls the shots and developsstrategies” for the industry in Washington, but leagues “mustdetermine their own strategies commensurate with state needs.”Sheehy, a native of Garden City, Kan., is a Viet Nam veteran. Heserved in the Army 33 months, of which 18 was spent in Viet Nam asa combat engineer. He extended his tour of duty there to obtain an`early out' to return to the U.S. Once with the Colorado League, hewas quickly promoted, becoming director of education in 1974 andstaff legislative lobbyist in 1975. He also was assistant treasurerof Colorado Corporate CU during the organization's first two years.He served on several national CU committees including the firstchairman of the Dues-Supported Service Committee of the AmericanAssociation of Credit Union League Executives. Sheehy was appointedby three Colorado governors -Richard Lamm, Roy Romer and Bill Owns– to serve on the Council of Advisors on Consumer Credit. Firstappointed in 1977 and now chairman, Sheehy says he will continueuntil his term runs out at yearend. “I told the governor last yearI was retiring, but he wanted me to stay on,” says Sheehy, who alsodoes volunteer work for the American Association of Retired People.Sheehy confides that his weight is something that he has alwayslived with “and for a lobbyist-it can be an advantage-particularlywhen you are bigger and taller than they are.” Because of hispresence, “they know I'm there,” he laughed. But for sure, he hasnever acted the bully, say his peers.. A recent video presented toSheehy at a farewell ceremony and “roast” presented was more of a“lovefeast” with testimonials from top Colorado CEOs. One videoclip noted his reputation as an historian and his keeping theConstitution in his vest pocket. He picked up a copy duringColorado's 1985 Bicentennial Commission celebration and decided itwas handy to read to lawmakers. Another video clip from staffersand Colorado CEOs reminded Sheehy that while he might be retiring,“we have your home phone number and we intend to use it.” -

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