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STATESBORO, Ga. – Paul Simkins is getting ready to move again – his 27th move since he got out of the Air Force in 1965 – except this time it’s not for professional reasons. The 64-year old president/CEO of CORE CU and founder and charter vice president of Credit Union 24 plans to move back to Orlando with his wife after he retires the end of this month after more than three decades of working with credit unions. Simkins actually will retire six days after he turns 65 – his last day at the $33 million CU is April 29 – which is exactly how old he told the credit union he wanted to be when he retired when they hired him as interim CEO in 2002. The Core CU Board has formed a search committee to find Simkins’ successor, and Simkins says he’s told the board he “won’t leave them in a lurch.” He says they’re seriously interviewing and “I trust if I have to stay on past April 29 it will only be for a week or two.” In hindsight, for someone who considered his first job working with credit unions just that – “just a job” – the Atlantic City, N.J.-native has come 360-degrees from when he was first hired in 1973 as a branch manager for Vista FCU, and even before then. Simkins signed up for the Air Force when he was 17 years old after quitting high school when he was in the 10th grade. “I was quite a handful then,” he admits. “I was either going to be a juvenile delinquent or join the Air Force.” He wound up getting both his high school and college Graduate Equivalency Diplomas when he was in the service. By the time he left the Air Force in 1965, Simkins was a tactical instructor, technical instructor and jet bomber mechanic. He also would have lived in San Antonio and Amarillo, Texas, then in Orlando, Fla. when he was stationed at Pine Castle AFB (no McCoy AFB), and then again in San Antonio when he returned to Lackland AFB to serve as a military training instructor. When he left the Air Force, Simkins and his wife Martha Jo moved back to Orlando and Simkins took what he said was the only job he could find, working as a collector for a small loan company. Four years later, Simkins was working as the MasterCard manager for Sun Banks of Orlando. It was 1969 and Walt Disney World was just getting started in Orlando. Simkins said Walt Disney World employees were coming to the bank to cash their checks that were drawn off of Security Pacific Bank of California and he had to sign off on the approval. So he contacted Disney and proposed they wire the employees’ payroll directly to Sun Banks to make it easier for employees to cash their checks. That initiative paid off for Simkins. In 1973, when Vista FCU whose field-of-membership includes Walt Disney World employees, had to let one of its branch managers go, they hired Simkins for the position. Simkins admits that when he began working at Vista FCU, “I didn’t come with any mission in mind, it was just a job.” What got him sold on CUs? “I met some people through CUES who were all out ministers for credit unions, and they converted me. People like Patricia Coker, former president/CEO, Bell Tel FCU (now called Insight Financial CU), Orlando, and Louise Hinton, former CEO, Gainesville Florida Campus FCU (now called Your Campus FCU),” says Simkins, adding that learning the philosophical difference between banks and credit unions “wasn’t like poof, it happened.” Instead, he explains, it was a gradual process that began when he got involved with CUES and was kept in motion by meetings he attended where he had the opportunity to listen to other people talk about the credit union philosophy where one CU would help another credit union. That, he recalls, never happened with banks. After earning his stripes at Vista FCU, Simkins went on to work as president/CEO of McCoy FCU. Then he began criss-crossing the U.S. working first on the West Coast as president/CEO for Mare Island FCU, Vallejo, Calif., then back to the East Coast as president/CEO, MacDill FCU in Tampa. He followed that by working as president/CEO at Pan Am Horizons FCU, Homestead, Fla. Simkins was then recruited by Dyad Corp., Norcross, Ga., to market their new banking kiosk to credit unions. He did that for one year – 1998-1999 – until the company was sold. He went on to work with a financial management and consulting company to do financial recovery work with credit unions that had financial problems. After doing that for four years, Simkins felt burned out and left the company intending not to get back into the credit union industry. In 2002, CORE CU asked Simkins to work at the CU as interim CEO, but he told the CU from the get-go that he intended to retire when he was 65. Simkins has kept his word. Oh yes, along the way, Simkins also was a founder and president of CENTCUSO, and a charter board member of Card Services for Credit Unions (Certegy), among his many credit union industry accomplishments. He also facilitated the merger of several credit unions while he was CEO of McCoy, MacDill and Pan Am CUs and has been a frequent speaker at national, state and local credit union meetings including conducting examiner training for the NCUA. Credit union presidents and CEOs recognized his achievements by selecting him as one of the 100 most admired credit union CEOs. But those accomplishments will all soon be part of his personal history. “I made my first contribution to Social Security in 1952. I was 13 then and earning money cutting chickens. That was more than 50 years ago. That’s enough penance to pay,” says Simkins. Though he’s looking forward to moving with his wife of 47 years back to Orlando where they’ll live near their three children and seven grandchildren, Simkins admits he has some anxiety about what he’ll do with all his free time. Still he has no regrets. “It’s never been about money. My needs are basically I love to work and I’ve loved doing credit union stuff,” he says. -

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