SALT LAKE CITY – It’s been less than two months on the job for Scott Simpson, the youthful new president/CEO of the Utah League of Credit Unions, and by all accounts it’s been productive though “a challenge and something I find very invigorating,” he admits. In a career that started in public relations but has always veered toward politics, the 34-year-old native of rural Hooper, Utah, has already undergone severe testing or as he describes it “a month and half drinking from a fire hose.” In the vernacular that means, he explained, simply getting a grip on the sometimes “overwhelming” task of restoring credit union industry stature before the legislature and the public after it suffered unrelenting, banker-induced attacks in 2002-3 over taxation, field of membership expansion and business lending, to name a few targeted areas. The attacks culminated in near passage a year ago of a first-time tax on CUs coupled with restrictions on business loans plus creation of a Financial Institution Task Force to look at reintroducing a CU tax maybe not in 2004 – an election year – but possibly in 2005. “Look, one of the key jobs ahead of me is simply to convince Utah lawmakers that they were wrong and made a terrible mistake by breaking the state system and evidence of that is the nine conversions,” said Simpson referring to the nine state CUs, including all of the largest, which switched over the last year to federal charters because of an impaired state charter. Lawmakers “were assured that wasn’t going to happen and the result is a broken state charter that needs to be fixed,” said Simpson adding, “I welcome the opportunity to go before the Task Force” and make the case that equity needs to be restored. There’s no telling whether that banker-influenced Task Force might, in fact, take up CU taxation again, said Simpson, but the League is well prepared – and motivated – through its mail and grassroots contacts to counter fresh banker assaults when the panel begins preliminary deliberations next month. Or sparks might fly from the governor’s race which is likely to include GOP House Speaker Marty Stephens, a former vice president of Zions Bank and a long-time CU antagonist. “I don’t really don’t want to make a comment on Marty Stephens since at this point we really don’t know who is in the field and nobody has formally filed for the office,” explained Simpson, who is well known in the Utah GOP having been the former executive director of the Utah Republican Party before joining the League in April 2003. Simpson, who had been serving as senior vice president of government affairs for the League before being tapped Dec. 18 as CEO, was also a former special assistant to U.S. Sen. Orrin D. Hatch (R-Utah), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Simpson said it will be up to Utah lawmakers to address the job of amending Utah laws for state-chartered CUs “to sweeten the deal” to perhaps get them to return or at minimum “stop the bleeding” on conversions. Moreover, “if regulators think dual chartering is so very important, why is it here in Utah we’ve tossed that idea right out the window causing them to flee?” he asked. For one thing, the Utah code, Simpson added, differs sharply from other states in dealing with what CUs can and cannot do as to field of membership and branching. “There are five and a half pages in the Utah law, twice as much as many words as the New York field of membership” language, and when one consider the assets and number of CUs in the two states, the contrast is striking, he said. The trend in many other parts of the country, Simpson observed, has been away from the federal charter and toward the state charter adding, “look at the nurturing environment in other states and innovative charters being adopted in Michigan, California and Washington.” The environment in Utah runs just the opposite, he concluded. Since assuming the League presidency – succeeding the well-known Scott Earl who left “by mutual agreement” after 12 years in the job – Simpson has already been getting high marks for his performance from the Utah CU CEOs. “He’s doing an excellent job, has clearly shown a ability to deal with lawmakers in a positive way and is opening new doors,” said Darin Moody, president/CEO of Utah First FCU and vice chairman of the Government Relations Committee of the League. Moody pointed to a recent meeting and reception Simpson hosted at the League pulling all five members of the state’s Congressional delegation together to meet with League leaders. “That was pretty special and Scott gets the credit,” said Moody. “He is a breath of fresh air,” opined Steve Christensen, chairman of the League and president /CEO of Toelle FCU. “We’re very pleased with Scott’s performance.” Within weeks of taking office, Simpson won praise from board members for reducing management staff and letting go Brooke Moea’i, senior vice president of dues. While overseeing dues and service operations, at one time Moea’i also was part of the lobbying team in the state capitol. But League directors felt the trade group under Earl was “top heavy” with high-salaried management staff. “I think there were too many chiefs and not enough Indians,” said Moody of Utah FCU. The League called Moea’i's departure a necessary “flattening” of the 18-employee League organization. While lauding Moeai’s important contributions, Simpson acknowledged the need to streamline the operation, adding also that he remains good friends with Scott Earl “who performed his job admirably.” Earl, he said, “grew up in the credit union movement” while Simpson hails from a political background having assumed one of the top GOP posts in the state at age 29, a subject for newspaper columnists at the time. Simpson is nonchalant and indifferent regarding comments about his youth, suggesting that the age factor should be a plus and adding, “I feel fine about it. I am a young professional with a record that can stand on its own.” Though firm age records are not kept by the Association of Credit Union Leagues, Simpson is believed to be the youngest CEO of a state League where the average age is about 53. Before joining the GOP and jobs in Washington, Simpson was marketing director for Excel Entertainment. He holds a degree in public relations from Weber State University in Ogden where he met his wife, Samantha. The couple has three young daughters. Asked how he relaxes, Simpson replied “right now we are in the process of restoring our 120-year-old Queen Anne home” located in suburban Kaysville. “I’m fairly handy and so is my wife, so we’re doing this all ourselves.” Satisfying work, he says. -

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