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Sometimes it seems like one of the most popular pastimes in credit union land is to engage in endless speculation, especially when it comes to high profile credit union people. “I heard (fill in the blank) was in big trouble with his board and will be let go at their next meeting.” “The word is out that (fill in the blank) didn’t really resign as announced, but was fired for (fill in the blank).” “Everyone knows (fill in the blank) took early retirement at 56 because (fill in the blank).” Sound familiar? This too? “I have it on good authority that (fill in lots of blanks here) is going to be nominated to the NCUA Board by (fill in day, month, year, or holiday recess period).” In this example, speculation over. But besides being nominated to be the newest member of the NCUA Board, who is Rodney E. Hood anyways? Had any of the speculators ever heard of him? Nope. When it comes to speculation about departing credit union CEOs, league presidents, and vendor executives, the speculators usually have a pretty good track record for being right on the money. But when it involves Presidential appointments to the three-person NCUA Board, they (included here are the CU trade groups) don’t even come close. Ever since former NCUA Board Chairman Dennis Dollar voluntary left his lame duck position, I think almost everyone involved with credit unions, except me, has been rumored to be his replacement. Most of those names, at least the ones with any degree of credibility, appeared in the pages of Credit Union Times as they surfaced. Obviously the Hood announcement proved that every single bit of speculation regarding who would fill Dollar’s slot was dead wrong. I am not aware of a single credit union person who had speculated that Rodney E. Hood would be the nominee? He came out of nowhere. As long time observers of the NCUA Board know, that’s just the way politics work and NCUA Board nominations and appointments are politics 101. What isn’t open to any speculation is the fact that as with most previous board nominations, Hood will need to engage in a crash course, not only on the workings of NCUA and his new agency responsibilities, but on credit unions in general. Like the majority of previous nominees, Hood was not selected for his knowledge and dedication to credit unions. I’m not even sure he is or ever has been a CU member. No, Hood is strictly a political nomination. I’m reminded of a previous board nominee some years back. In an introductory phone conversation between that person and me, they made this comment: “Mike, I have to admit I don’t know a thing about credit unions.” To which I replied, “Don’t ever say that again; credit unions will find out for themselves soon enough.” And they did of course. None of this is meant to take anything away from Hood. On paper he looks very good when it comes to education, diversity of experience (including banking related), his current government position, and an enviable variety of outside interests (opera buff and fly fisherman). But when it comes to transferring all of this into a plus for CUs, only time will tell. Some more speculation: Between now and Matz’s departure, at least some of the current and frustrating board meeting agenda deadlocks between Johnson and Matz should disappear when NCUA is at last back up to full strength after the anticipated Hood appointment takes place. However, the speculation will continue. The term of current board member Debbie Matz will expire on August 2nd. A number of names of Democrats actively interested in that spot on the board have already surfaced. Count on that number increasing between now and Matz’s D-Day. But who will get her slot is only part of the speculation. How about this scenario? President Bush nominates a Democrat to replace Matz as soon as her term is up in August. By then Hood should be seated by virtue of either a recess appointment over Memorial Day or through the regular Senate confirmation process. Either way, he and current chairman JoAnn Johnson will occupy the allotted Republican seats. As soon as the Democrat receives a nomination and eventually an appointment, he or she will be moved over to the once Dollar, now Hood, position. That term has only four years remaining in it. A Republican President is not likely to give a full six-year term to a Democrat and an abbreviated one to a Republican. Hood would be moved to the newly available full term as soon as Matz departs. Even if he is on the board via the recess appointment route since that appointment wouldn’t expire until Congress adjourns at the end of the next year, namely 2006. The new Democrat member of the board would then be moved into the four-year term Hood position. Talk about musical chairs. Anyway, this is how the speculators see it. Where speculation will once again fail is guessing who that Democrat will be. Several good possible candidates, a couple well known in CU circles, are eminently qualified for the job. Of course that means little. But the speculation is that the requirement of at least one board member having credit union experience will reduce the list of wannabes considerably. An interesting sidelight: many speculators used to go with the flow and figure that the person who is endorsed and openly and actively supported by one or both of the national credit union associations might even be considered a shoo in. What has actually happened over the years is such endorsements have proven to be the kiss of death for the potential nominee. CUNA and NAFCU now save all their predictable laudatory comments until the candidate is firmly ensconced on the board, no matter who it is. That is also pure politics. 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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