As regular readers of Credit Union Times know, it is people who make headlines and make the credit union world go around. Here are some observations on just a few of the dozens of credit union folks making news recently. A number of credit union people have stepped up to the plate to defend the way Texas League CEO and CUNA Chairman Dick Ensweiler is handling the tricky I-want-to-be-a-bank situation in the Lone Star State. Backing from a current (Michigan) and a retired (Oklahoma) league CEO is no surprise. But the strong support Ensweiler is receiving from his current chairman, Gary Davis, is something most credit union industry CEOs can only dream about. Davis is making every effort to set the record straight that not only did Ensweiler act quickly and decisively, but in a manner prescribed by his elected leadership. Much of the controversy regarding how Ensweiler is dealing with a couple of billion dollar credit unions in Texas aggressively seeking bank charters, was ignited by very specific remarks made about Ensweiler by retired Patelco CU CEO Ed Callahan in a recent NACUSO conference speech in Las Vegas. Since virtually every day brings a new development, and thus another headline in the conversion controversy in Texas, Ensweiler is destined to remain in the headlines and on the hot seat for the duration of the charter change flap. When Dave Chatfield’s already announced retirement date rolls around, he will leave behind probably the biggest league CEO shoes ever attempted to be filled. Chatfield took over after his predecessor was fired for failing miserably. From the outset of his getting the position, Chatfield picked up the pieces and systematically turned California into a model league as the final stop in a credit union career that showcased his managerial talent and people skills in numerous executive level positions from Alaska to Washington, D.C. A high percentage of the numerous successes and innovations in California emanated from the fertile brain of this well-respected CU leader. He not only showed the way for his league colleagues, but in a number of cases successfully launched programs that some have said should have been done by national CU trade groups. The California’s advocacy-based statewide advertising program (the first ever made mandatory), the opening of a Washington, D.C. office, a how-to-find-a-credit union initiative, a record setting PAC fund, an impressive list of co-sponsors, and setting up campaign schools are but a few of many of Chatfield’s long list of accomplishments that could be cited to make the point that his tenure as CEO of California (and Nevada) would make a terrific league management highlight film. Soon-to-retire Bob Rose also has an impressive credit union pedigree including very productive time as an executive with the California League and at the CU level. However, he will be best known in any credit union history books as the guy who put the CO-OP Network on the map. A simple idea led to a fledgling organization seeking to convince credit unions to get on the cooperative bandwagon with their ATMs. With Rose at the helm, the CO-OP Network grew to the preeminent position it now occupies in the credit union industry. But his solid reputation for achievement even goes beyond credit unions into the big picture ATM arena as well. The numbers in every important category speak volumes of what Rose was able to accomplish. His retirement from active management is the CU industry’s loss, but the teaching profession’s gain. Who is one of the most controversial figures in credit unions? Who has single-handily done more for credit unions than almost any other credit union person? The answer to both questions is Jim Blaine, longtime CEO, State Employees Credit Union, North Carolina. Unfortunately, when some credit union persons think of Blaine, at least in recent memory, they think of his “performance” at the CUNA GAC last year. What I think of is all the innovative things he has done for his thousands of members through 176 branches (most of any CU) and for the industry as a whole. Check out how many times this guy makes news by sticking his neck out for all credit unions, not just his own. One example of many: while many have been outspoken in their disgust at credit union CEOs and boards attempting to turn their credit unions into banks, it is Blaine who has put his words where others mouths are. Whether it is how he handled his recent 15 seconds of fame on CBS’ 60 Minutes TV program. Or sending out “Don’t Mess with Texas” postcards and showing up in Texas. Or on his own getting a favorable private letter ruling from IRS on alternative capital. Or setting up programs for youngsters. Or organizing a foundation. Or serving as a volunteer in credit union organizations that he feels fulfill a worthwhile purpose. Or speaking and debating across the country with the fervor of a preacher on a mission. Or finding innovative ways to serve the less fortunate while leading the statewide charge against predatory lenders. Or voluntarily adopting the provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley bill at his credit union. Or.? The list goes on and on. You have got to admire this guy’s unquestioning dedication to all things credit union. Two other credit union folks making headlines these days are Russell Clark and Marvin Umholtz. They are in the middle of a lively debate over credit unions that have decided to become banks. Each brings to the table strong arguments for and against from their unique credit union background. (See page 16 this issue) If readers examine what they have been saying exclusively in Credit Union Times the past couple of weeks, they will find both making convincing arguments on an important, controversial issue. So who’s right? Final question: what other CU names are making headlines and should have been included here? 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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