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JUNEAU, Alaska – Retire and move to South Florida to bask in the sun and take up golf? That’s not even a blip on Sharon Kelly’s radar screen when she retires on June 30 after 21 years in the president/CEO’s seat at True North FCU. Instead, Kelly plans to stay right in the city where she was born, grew up and calls home. Kelly, 56, is proud that she’s a third generation Alaskan and of her colorful family history – her grandparents came to Alaska during the gold rush 100 years ago; her father was born on the Iditarod Trail on the way Nome. Her maternal grandfather was a U.S. marshall stationed in the city of Cordova between Juneau and Anchorage and near the city of Valdez when a railroad was built 196 miles through the wilderness to tidewater at Cordova to remove the ore from the Kennicott mine. “I never wanted to live anywhere or go anywhere else,” says Kelly. Her three children and two grandchildren also live in Juneau, as does one of her brothers. Another brother lives in Fairbanks, Alaska, and her sister lives in a military family in Alabama. Kelly did live in Fairbanks for five years while attending college, “but I love the southeast part of the state. I love the water and go fishing, primarily halibut and salmon. I love to watch the whales,” she says, adding that “my next career may be as a naturalist.” That would certainly be a radical change from the work Kelly’s been involved with at True North FCU -formerly known until October 2003 as Alaska State Employees FCU – for 26 years, the first five of which were on the CU’s board. When Kelly went on the board – she worked for the school district at the time and her boss said serving on the CU’s board would be a “valuable experience” – the credit union had $4.9 million in assets and about 5,000 members. By the time she succeeded Brian Andrews as president, the assets were up to $14 million. True North currently has $85 million in assets and approximately 13,000 members. Kelly has vivid memories of what Juneau was like when she was growing up there. Foremost, of course, is that Alaska was a territory at the time, and Juneau’s population was between 5,000-7,000 (it’s now 30,000). She also laughingly admits that there’s more to eat in the city now than just Spam. “It (Spam) was a big part of our diet when I was a child because everything came in on barge,” she recalls. She says the residents of Juneau are still “frontier people,” but there’s an increase proportion of people living there who are “transplants from other states who move there because they want to be surrounded by nature.” Just as Kelly has seen the landscape of Juneau change, she’s also witnessed a change in the credit union landscape in the city as well as the entire state. At one time there were 44 credit unions in Alaska, now there are only 12. Kelly said the decline is mostly due to mergers between credit unions. She also witnessed in 2001 the conversion of the Alaska Credit Union League to an all volunteer league. Commenting on the condition of the league before the conversion, Kelly described it as “fractured. We needed a change, and this model works for us.” The league’s 12-member board now includes one representative from each CU in the state. “I’ve had the opportunity to work with the best of the best,” says Kelly. “We’re a very close credit union community, but we also compete head to head. That makes us very competitive and forces us to work to our best. In the end it’s the members who benefit. “The group of credit unions we have in the state now are the ones who came through the recession in the 1980s when a lot of banks closed. But no credit unions closed,” she says, adding that credit unions in Alaska have the highest member penetration (more than 60%) of any state in the country. Kelly attributes that success to the fact that Alaska credit unions “provide really good services collectively. We’re like family. From time to time there have been squabbles, but whenever anyone outside has tried to threaten us, we’ve come together.” Asked what she’s most proud of accomplishing during her leadership of True North, Kelly said “there’s not one incident.” But at the top her list is that the credit union is the fifth largest in the state and it has a statewide field-of-membership. She’s also very proud of her “nimble staff” and that True North was the first credit union in Alaska to have a Web site as well as successfully manage operating two branches – Fairbanks and Anchorage – located 900 miles apart from each other. Also on Kelly’s `proud of accomplishing list’ is True North’s new 15,600 square foot headquarters that was recently completed and includes a drive-up, administrative office, and a branch office. “The credit union never had a home of its own before. It was housed in a building that formerly housed a restaurant in the bottom half and a real estate agent in the top half. It was never configured for a financial institution,” Kelly explains. Still for all the credit union’s accomplishments during Kelly’s tenure there, she’s disappointed True North will not have reached the $100 million in assets mark before she leaves. With the clock ticking until her official last day at True North, Kelly still has a couple of things to take care of. First she wants to finish putting together a good frame of reference on vendors for the staff. The new headquarters has enough space that allows the credit union to centralize everything so staff only have to look in one place for information. And of course, Kelly has to finish cleaning up her office and going through everything she’s collected over the years like old board minutes. That’s given her the opportunity to reminisce about the years she’s spent at True North. Among her many recollections: in the early years of its history, the credit union had no office. Collectors for the credit union went around to members with passbooks. Deposits went back to the treasurer who kept the money in a desk drawer. “There were always some difficult times, but a stewardship of volunteers, staff and members always kept the credit union going,” Kelly says. Lest she forget anything – including embarrassing moments – she experienced during her presidency at True North, credit union representatives from around Alaska were joined by CUNA Chairman Dick Ensweiler, president/CEO of the Texas Credit Union League, at a reception held in Kelly’s honor May 1 during the all-volunteer Alaska Credit Union League’s annual meeting in Alyeska. Kelly was the brunt of a roast held in her honor. Kelly said Ensweiler and his wife kicked off the roast by presenting her with the OMIF Award – “Open Mouth Insert Foot Award” for a remark she once made about “spanking the speakers” at an annual meeting, instead of saying “thanking the speakers.” “After Ensweiler’s tribute, it all went downhill from there. But everyone was very kind,” she says. Kelly says she’s uncertain about any future involvement with credit union work. At some point she might want to be reinvolved again, but she said she promised her successor, Lauren MacVay, that she would have to generate the request to Kelly. MacVay is currently executive vice president of True North FCU and has been with the credit union for nine years. But Kelly isn’t thinking that far ahead. Her immediate plans include getting ready for her annual July 4th party which her brothers and sisters will come to. She also has some family business to take care of. Then in July and August she plans to go clamming with a cousin in the Kenai penninsula south of Anchorage. “I’ll check my options in September,” she says. -

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