Welcome to my first column. I am truly honored for the opportunity to share my views on this terrific industry. Trust me, I have a lot to say. I think credit unions are staring down a number of challenges that must be met. I pledge to always give my honest take, no matter what the issue and no matter what players are involved. I must report however that this debut column may not be my best. I am writing this with a very heavy heart. My mother Patricia passed away suddenly just a few days prior to the writing of this column. She was truly one of the most important people in my life and I am heartbroken she was taken so quickly and much too early. She’s followed my journalism career from the local papers in New Jersey to today, and I was looking forward to hearing her thoughts on my column. She always read this publication, not because she had an interest in credit unions, but because she wanted to know what her son was doing and be able to discuss it with me. But this column is not about me, it’s about the man I am replacing, Credit Union Times’ founder and former publisher Mike Welch. For 15 years and 794 straight columns Mike used this page to let everyone know what he was thinking about credit unions. I was a great admirer of Mike’s column for two primary reasons. First, he was honest and I think that is easy to say, but harder to do. He was not swayed by public opinion. He often gave very unpopular views. Some of these opinions probably were in line with what many were thinking, but for their own careers, they would not publicly admit it. The second thing I most admired about Mike’s column, and which I myself may find hard to adhere to, is he did not use this space to crusade or campaign for any of his personal beliefs about credit unions. To me it is tempting to hammer on the same themes to keep the issue alive in the industry, but Mike didn’t do that. He is certainly impressed with how sophisticated credit unions have become since the time he joined the industry in 1969, but he was also a critic of many things like the industry’s national coordinated marketing campaign, or lack thereof. He often said credit unions were missing the boat on this front, but he didn’t attempt a one-man crusade in this column to affect change. That wasn’t his style. As editor-in-chief, I want to share some “inside baseball” stories on Mike. Regular readers of this publication understand that Credit Union Times believes in being a forum for the industry. One way we do that is by running lots of letters to the editor on a range of topics. Many of these letters are comments on Mike’s column, and often the letter writer would take liberties and change what Mike actually said to fit their own opinions or agenda. I often offered Mike an editor’s note where I would clarify any misstatements of his column, but time and again, unless it was egregious, he flatly refused. He knew as the writer of an opinion column, he was putting himself out there to be criticized, and trying to correct every misinterpretation would not only be impossible, but hurt his goal of getting people to think. Over the years, Mike has also been one of the best news sources for the Credit Union Times’ editorial staff. Because of his career here and prior with CUES and other places, he has built up an extensive list of contacts and friends that entrust him with information. I can’t tell you how many times we were first with stories because of Mike’s tips. He always kept his promise to his sources. If they wanted to be just an anonymous tipster, he respected that. Fortunately Mike has helped me become a trusted confidant for many of these people. That respect for sources will obviously continue. I think it’s also important to talk about Mike’s commitment to this publication. He consistently reinvested in the product. He could have easily used the success of Credit Union Times for his own personal gain, but he believed in taking care of employees the best he could and the readers and advertisers by never skimping on the product. I think leaders of credit unions that engineer conversions to banks can learn from this philosophy, but more on that later. On a personal note, I was a great admirer of Mike’s commitment to his family and to this publication. Everyone involved in putting out Credit Union Times became part of his extended family and I know he is someone I can always count on long after his affiliation with Credit Union Times ends, though I believe unofficially at least it never truly will. I would be remiss not to mention that myself and the entire staff will miss Mike’s one-liners. For years he’s peppered us with jokes for every occasion, and although many missed their mark with this editor, I always enjoyed his delivery. They were indicative of Mike’s belief in not taking himself too seriously. Mike always told me he would not hang on too long like he’s seen some in this industry do. Believe me Mike, you didn’t, you left us all wanting more. Farewell friend and good luck in your next career. Be assured this column space will continue to spur people to think. [email protected]

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