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TACOMA, Wash. – Washington State may have one of the nation’s highest rates of small credit union mergers, but that fact does not seem to have impacted turnout for the annual meeting of the state League. Indeed, “this is the highest turnout -750-in more than a decade,” said an elated John Annaloro, president/CEO, referring to the surge of registrations at this year’s meeting held Sept. 14-16 at the Sheraton Tacoma. “I think you’re seeing new unity in the ranks of credit unions,” observed Robert Harvey, newly elected chairman of the League and president/CEO of Seattle Metropolitan CU, suggesting also that business has been good for the industry allowing CUs to send more of their staff and directors to conferences. Harvey and other League officials also attributed the increase to recent changes in conference programming emphasizing an education track for middle managers-the “up and comers-CEOs of the future.” League spokesmen even pointed to mentoring practices with veteran CEOs shepherding those middle managers through the rounds of receptions and conference sessions. Bergen Peterson, senior vice president of Columbia CU in Vancouver, said she was “enjoying the conference” working alongside Susan Streifel, co-chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee and also president/CEO of Woodstone CU of Federal Way. “My interest is in the legislative area so this really helps” being alongside Streifel, said Peterson. Apart from the increase in registrations-750 up from 600 a year ago-there also was a jump in vendors, reaching 100 which is an increase of “six or seven” from a year ago, said Jennifer Huggert, a League conference coordinator. “I think one thing we do is that we try to appeal not just to CEOs but to volunteers, middle managers, and many other staffers,” said Huggert. A sampling of vendors exhibiting at the conference said they liked the half hour “infomercials” scattered throughout the three days of meetings in which vendor reps discuss products during dozens of “breakout” sessions. Despite the loss of CUs through mergers, Donald Larsen, CUNA secretary and a director of the Washington League, said a large block of middle and top tier CUs have managed to grow and become more efficient even though the state now has just 140 CUs, a sharp drop from the 425-plus more than a decade ago. Larsen, who also is president of Community CU of Tacoma, said he and others in the League are content that the conversion spotlight is on Texas and off Washington State “where I think we’ve had four” over the last six to seven years. “Conversions are not an issue for us now,” said Larsen. One of the conference’s most memorable and moving moments came at the business session Sept. 16 in a tearful and heartfelt farewell by Byron Edgett, the outgoing chairman. Concluding years of service on the board, Edgett, who also is president/CEO of Spokane FCU, thanked fellow directors and staff for their support and friendship “and through their example giving me inspiration.” With tears falling down his cheeks, the Spokane CEO confessed “this is so hard” to express thanks to “so many” in departing the leadership job. His soliloquy was finally interrupted by Annaloro, who presented Edgett with a “white hat” in the tradition of “John Wayne as one of the good guys.” [email protected]

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