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It is not uncommon for the top person in an organization to lay out a number of stretch goals as they assume a new position. More often than not, somewhere in the verbiage describing what they want to accomplish are these words: “I hope to leave the organization in better shape when I depart than when I joined it.” Current NCUA Chairman (until April 30, 2004) Dennis Dollar had two sets of goals when he joined NCUA seven years ago. The record is clear. He successfully met every one of them. And he definitely left NCUA as a much better organization than when he joined it. His goals when he first became one of three NCUA Board Members were understandably modest. After all, he was joining two Board Members, Norm D’Amours and Yolanda Wheat, neither of whom ever managed to appear very high on the credit union, CU trade groups, or NCUA staff popularity charts. At the peak of their most contentious moments, one observer once said they couldn’t be left alone in the same room without adult supervision. Still, Board Member Dollar somehow managed to work with and around them to get some important things done and some bad things tabled. Eventually D’Amours and Wheat were gone and President Bush named Dollar Chairman with JoAnn Johnson and first Geoff Bacino, and later Debbie Matz on his board. Once the new Chairman was in a much better position to place his personal stamp on NCUA, he lost little time picking up the pieces and in implementing another even longer and more ambitious list of 24 goals. Although all of Dollar’s goals during his tenure on the NCUA Board were important, what he is probably most proud of as he steps down of his own accord, is the one calling for him to leave NCUA in far better shape than when he came on board. NCUA today bears little resemblance to the federal regulatory and insurance body Dollar inherited. Under Dollar, virtually everything changed, and changed for the better. Dollar’s many accomplishments include highly successful initiatives like RegFlex, which brought an entirely new approach to safety and soundness regulation. Also, an ambitious effort to expand membership in areas where credit unions could do much good with Access Across America. And putting in place at the agency Accountability in Management process, which encompassed significant organizational and budget changes. All of these and many more have been widely reported. But besides all those things that fall neatly into place in a biographical summary, including a raft of impressive industry stats, perhaps the real focus of Dollar’s impressive legacy will be the considerable people skills he brought to the job. They also played an important role in why Dennis Dollar became the most popular and respected Chairman in the history of NCUA. Dollar brought to the job a hands-on understanding of the inner workings of a credit union because unlike most of his predecessors, he had been there, done that as a credit union CEO. He knew first hand what a burden some proposed regulations would have on credit unions, especially the medium to small size CUs. He sought ways to make managing a credit union easier, not harder, but never forgot his number one responsibility, safety and soundness. Banker attacks and lawsuits frightened him not at all. Included in any list of accolades about Dollar would have to be one that singles out his approachability. Is there any credit union person who has not met and shook hands with him? Not if they ever attended any of the hundreds of credit union meetings at which he spoke. Unlike most VIP speakers, Dollar not only hung around to meet and greet his constitutents, he most often arrived early to work the halls and receptions so that he could talk to as many credit union people as possible. Every person who approached Dollar, whether just to say hi, to voice a complaint, or to pass along a compliment, was greeted like an old friend. What made these one-on-one contacts so engaging is that this Chairman knew how to listen and knew whereof he spoke. It was always clear that he was on top of all things credit union, but especially anything that pertained to NCUA. When it came time to talk, he did so with unbridled enthusiasm whether talking to a handful of admirers in a hotel hallway, a packed ballroom of over 3,000, testifying before a government body, or conducting an NCUA Board Meeting. It almost became routine for Dollar to receive standing ovations after his always original, always energetic, always informative speeches. He never read a speech because he didn’t have to and didn’t want to. Most high-profile credit union leaders have already given high praise and plaudits to Chairman Dollar. And there will be much more especially as he conducts his final NCUA Board Meeting as Chairman on April 15th. The words that most likely will be heard as Dollar’s final day in the chair draw near will probably include all these and more: respect, leader, ethical, fair, intelligent, friendly, knowledgeable, competitive, listener, empathetic, visionary, mentor, enthusiastic, flexible, loyal, moral, family, supportive, fearless, and ambitious. Dollar has said many times that he wants to stay involved with credit unions. Just how and where is a big unknown at this point? What is known is that it would be a terrible waste to let Dollar fade into the sunset when, at his young age, he still has so much time and talent to give to make credit unions even better. In a recent interview with Credit Union Times, Chairman Dennis Dollar said: “NCUA is a more effective, efficient, and respected agency at the close of my tenure than it was at the beginning.” I can’t say it any better than that except to add thanks and good luck Mr. Chairman! Comments? Call 1-800-345-9936, Ext. 15, or Fax 561-683-8514, or E-mail [email protected]

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Peter Westerman

Credit Union Times

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