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WASHINGTON – Conversions, the decline of small credit unions, NCUA’s protective role plus volunteer involvement all turn out to be among pressing issues in a race underway this spring for NAFCU’s three at-large positions on its 11-member board. There are six candidates in this closely watched contest representing a diverse mix of CEOs, many from Eastern seaboard CUs, but also including two D.C. area volunteers who are making a second try after being unsuccessful last year. The six include CEOs John Tippets, American Airlines FCU, Dallas; Cutler Dawson, Navy FCU, Merrifield, Va.; Ed Templeton, SRP FCU, North Augusta, S.C.; and Carl Ratcliff, ABNB FCU, Chesapeake, Va. The two volunteers are: Robert Scott, vice chair of Pentagon Federal Credit Union, and Marlene Schwartz, chair of State Department FCU, both of Alexandria, Va. In interviews and in letters distributed to NAFCU members, the six share with Credit Union Times some of their expressed opinions in capsule form. “We at Navy Federal feel a strong obligation to serve our industry in any way we can and that is one reason I chose to become a candidate,” explained Dawson. “In today’s environment, it is most important that we speak with one voice and both organizations, CUNA and NAFCU, deserve our support which is why we pay dues to both groups.” Navy FCU is proud of its role in coming to the aid of small CUs across the country, said Dawson, noting that in Katrina’s aftermath Navy provided assistance to beleaguered Gulf Coast CUs. “We have never hesitated to help small credit unions,” he said. Ratcliff, the CEO of ABNB in Virginia, said he supports the ability of a CU to convert to a mutual savings bank adding, “I firmly believe that unless there is unanimous support of the change, excess equity should be distributed to the members.” But, he said, “in my opinion, our regulator has done an abysmal job of protecting the interests of individual credit union members in this regard.” The ABNB CEO also discussed the dues problem over the years at NAFCU noting that some CUs feel “disloyal” to CUNA by being members of NAFCU. And other CUs, he continued, have trouble justifying paying dues to both NAFCU and CUNA and “given one choice many have selected CUNA because of its long-standing tradition and close affiliation with state leagues.” Tippets said he feels privileged to be on the ballot and would serve the interest of CU member-owners “to the best degree I can.” “Credit unions have been central to my family for a long time,” said Tippets noting that CUs “were a lifeline” to his father, a former Civil Aeronautics Administration employee and 30-year civil servant. “My own first car loan was with FAA Credit Union.” Templeton of SRP in South Carolina said CUs represent a true consumer option in the financial marketplace. “When options are eliminated, then the free market is no longer a true free market,” said Templeton adding if elected he would work hard to “ensure credit unions survive and prosper.” Templeton also maintained his personal background and that of his CU “appear to be vastly different from some of the other candidates, bringing new and fresh perspectives to the table.” Both Scott of Pentagon and Schwartz of State Department stressed the positive nature of their candidacies as demonstrating the need for volunteers to have a bigger role in trade group management. Schwartz also said the rapidly declining number of credit unions “and the reactive rather than proactive response to this trend” should be a prime issue to NAFCU and the industry. “I would advocate creation of an organized approach to help credit unions that want to and are able to remain safe, sound and small,” she said. “The question of merger or takeover has not been adjudicated from the member’s viewpoint.” “I think the leagues, CUNA and NAFCU could partner to create a Credit Union Assistance Program that would provide CUs support, advice, and guidance as they go through a decision process to determine their future, something like bankruptcy protection,” she suggested. Such a program might put the brakes on the “pacman” practice of large credit unions gobbling up smaller institutions. “This would hold the bigger, more aggressive credit unions at bay while all options are considered before decisions are made.” Scott of Pentagon said that “while the volunteer concept thrives at the local credit union level,” for the most part volunteer input and involvement still remains diminished despite wide publicity given to the subject over the last year. Volunteers, he said, are “what differentiate the credit union movement from other financial institutions” and yet he said national trade groups still give lip service to drawing volunteers into the board room at the highest levels or becoming a real part of the decision-making process. “Look at the Maryland/D.C. League,” said Scott. “They just named a new volunteer advisory committee but they didn’t appoint a volunteer to their board.” NAFCU said ballots went out to its members Feb. 2 and are due back by the final deadline of May 25. Final election results will be released July 15 during NAFCU’s annual conference in Toronto, Canada. -

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