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CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – Electing a credit union leader to the Iowa legislature has been a vision of the Iowa Credit Union League since they narrowly defeated legislation imposing a credit union tax increase in 2003. That vision was realized when Bob Kressig, chairman of John Deere Community Credit Union (JDCCU), beat his Republican incumbent opponent Erv Dennis for the House of Representatives District 19 seat. In the end, Kressig, a Democrat, proved a strong challenger in his win over Dennis with the winning margin being less than 200 votes out of 13,000 cast. Kressig actually squeaked by with 189 votes. Kressig, 50, admits that in the early days of his campaign for the Iowa House District 19 seat against Dennis, his confidence was a little shaky. What a difference a grassroots campaign makes. “I wanted people to get to know who I was,” Kressig said. “Frankly, my confidence level wasn’t that high in the beginning but as I began to knock on doors and talk to voters, I felt there was a chance.” Some say Kressig with his extensive credit union lobbying experience at the state and national level, his work with the Iowa Credit Union League (ICUL) and CUNA and his board experience at JDCCU, made him the ideal candidate to run. Kressig fit the bill: he recently retired from John Deere after more than 30 years of service in various positions; he’s been on the board at JDCCU since 1996 and has been its chairman since for the last three years. In 2000, the mayor of Cedar Falls appointed Kressig to the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission and he currently serves as its chairperson. “With several practicing bankers in the Iowa legislature willing to disadvantage credit unions, it was essential for (us) to work hard to elect candidates who favor our industry,” said Justin Hupfer, ICUL vice president of government affairs and internal counsel. With his close affinity to the credit union movement, Kressig will continue the mission of educating his legislative colleagues on how credit unions are structured including their tax exemption model, even though credit unions indeed pay taxes, Kressig pointed out. Last year, the Iowa Bankers Association supported legislation that would have increased taxes on the state’s community-chartered credit unions with more than $150 million in assets. That bill was defeated in May 2003 in large part due to the more than 11,000 letters, 6,000 e-mails, 7,000 petition signatures, and hundreds of phone calls and personal visits by credit union members to their legislators. In addition, 1,000 vocal credit union supporters rallied inside the state Capitol on March 10 to oppose the tax legislation. The Iowa Bankers Association has said the largest credit unions in the state should not be tax exempt. In September, former NCUA Chairman Norm D’Amours spoke at an IBA conference and urged banks to shift their focus including playing up how they’re fulfilling their Community Reinvestment Act requirements better than credit unions. Even though the IBA has said it will press on with its mission of rescinding the tax exemption, in other areas, credit unions and banks are generally on the same page. “Other than the tax exemption issue, we are on the same side as credit unions,” said Sharon Presnall, IBA senior vice president, government relations. “Most legislators from the area (that Kressig represents) have not been against the tax exemption issue anyway. Neither was his opponent.” On Kressig’s win, Presnall said it’s a “great asset to have people on board that are related to the industry” they represent. “We have several bankers and bank board members that serve,” Presnall said. “(Kressig’s) win will not have a huge impact on what we will continue to do. If anything, he’s someone who is very familiar with credit unions.” Kressig is optimistic that credit unions and banks can work together. “Let’s talk about what we have in common, let’s look at our strengths and weaknesses,” Kressig said. “Here’s an opportunity to reach across and help them better understand what credit unions are about.” The ICUL is hoping Kressig’s win will motivate other credit union executives and board members to get politically involved. “Iowa’s credit unions were willing to risk political capital to ensure candidates understand that if they attempt to damage our industry, their credit union constituency will take a stand,” said Pat Jury, ICUL vice president. With the race behind him, Kressig is gearing up for the state’s legislative session, which starts in January. Besides being a voice for the movement, Kressig is just as passionate about the “drastic cuts’ that have affected the universities here; a dearth of jobs and the need to attract companies that can offer better-paying jobs; and healthcare issues. He has asked to serve on commerce, education and cities and government committees. Between now and Jan. 10, 2005, when the legislative session starts, Kressig said he will “learn the protocol.” He already has a person in mind that will work as his aide. With the session lasting more than 100 days, he’s preparing to spend a large chunk of his time in Des Moines, Iowa’s capital. Kressig met many of his colleagues at a Nov. 13 caucus. “The only disappointment about wining is that I won’t be able to attend the GAC next year because we’ll be in session,” Kressig said. “That’s always been such an educational experience for me.” Kressig said he will step down as JDCCU’s chairman when his term is up in April, 2005 but will still continue to serve on the board. He also plans to step down as chairman of the Cedar Falls Planning and Zoning Commission in January, 2005. JDCCU President/CEO Jean Trainor said Kressig brings “a pretty broad range of experience” to the table, and Mike Harvey, JDCCU executive vice president said Kressig is “an extremely hard worker, a good listener and will be good for the citizens of Iowa.” The father of two daughters and two grandchildren, Kressig said his wife, Liz, “is happy that the election is over but is very supportive of the opportunity.” “When I went out to lobby, I realized that our voice wasn’t being heard,” said Kressig, who acknowledged the support he received from the ICUL. “There were some issues that weren’t being addressed. I saw it as a chance, if elected, to represent credit unions. Folks and particularly credit union folks have really stepped up to the plate and worked hard for me.” [email protected]

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