ALEXANDRIA, Va. – He is the guy at the shoulder of the chairman at NCUA Board meetings and he is the one who speaks for the chairman when he is not available. For six and a half years, Chief of Staff to the NCUA Chairman Kirk Cuevas has done nearly as much talking and handshaking as Chairman Dennis Dollar. He has advised and counseled the chairman on numerous issues critical to credit unions from field of membership regulations to RegFlex. “Kirk defined the position of policy advisor to a board member,” Dollar stated. He has been an “incredible asset to me and to the agency.” His influence within credit union circles is at least equal to his own, Dollar said. Cuevas also served as a second presence for the chairman at meetings when he did not have the opportunity to meet with everyone there. Cuevas himself said if he told a credit union leader something, they should know it was as good as coming from the chairman. After observing agency operations for nearly seven years, Cuevas explained that each board member has a different personality and the success of their executive assistant depends on their ability to figure it out fast. Fortunately for him, Cuevas said, “Regulatorily and politically, we’re very much cut from the same cloth, which made it easier for me.” Cuevas and Dollar go back more than 20 years when he served as Dollar’s page when he was in the Mississippi House of Representatives. Other than that the two had never worked together prior to NCUA, but were friends and had followed each other’s careers. In addition to a professional mentor, Dollar even served as Cuevas’ best man at his wedding, Cuevas said. Through this relationship and their combined agenda, the two were able to forge many changes at the agency. Cuevas noted that many people try to deny they have an agenda. “In reality, we came here with an agenda. I’m not going to apologize for it,” he said. As a result credit unions are safer and sounder, he said, and better positioned. “We left [NCUA] better than we found it,” he said, echoing his mentor. According to Cuevas, Dollar’s hands-off management style allowed him to obtain a number of professional accomplishments. “I do think the fact that he empowered me as executive assistant and entrusted me allowed me to accomplish things,” he said. Cuevas’ finger prints can be found all through the field of membership regulations, RegFlex, and incidental powers. As “architect and builder” Cuevas said he and Dollar have defined role of chief of staff likely to be modeled after in the future. “He gave me free reign on a lot of things while always recognizing he was the boss,” Cuevas said. In addition, the chairman’s chief of staff supervised policy items and served as his No.1 confidant and sounding board. “I work with one of the most impressive people to work with,” Cuevas said. Dollar is a very principled man and “what you see is what you get.” “I like that,” he said. “I’m drawn to that, that sense of fairness.” While the chairman is easy-going he does hold people accountable but believes in letting people do their jobs, so “If you’re doing your job and doing it well, he’s probably easy to get along with.” He explained further, “I wouldn’t say he’s a harsh task master, but he’s a demanding task master.” For the future, the two are looking at possibly going into business together, but Cuevas disclosed he has also had a number of inquiries from law firms and credit unions. “We’re big boys and recognize we need to look after the interest of our families,” he said. Cuevas emphasized that obviously his and the chairman’s resumes are strongest in credit union circles right now. He said his dream job would be to own and operate a golf driving range with a grill in the back for Cajun cooking and sit around and talk politics with the customers. Before coming to NCUA, Cuevas was an attorney with State Farm for more than six years. “I belonged to a credit union but short of that, I wasn’t a credit union authority at that point,” he admitted. Cuevas recalled that his first NCUA Board meeting, which lasted about 11 hours, was a sort of “trial by fire.” Like Dollar, Cuevas too has served half his career in the public and half in the private sector. He said that he does have political aspirations but not in the near future. He did not rule out returning to the NCUA Board at some point. Cuevas credits his parents’ good sense of values and work ethic they imparted on him for his success. He was the first in his family to complete college. “In a lot of ways I am living the American Dream,” he concluded. -firstname.lastname@example.org
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