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ALEXANDRIA, Va.-NCUA Director of External Affairs Nicholas Owens served as a political appointee through two chairmen but has now decided to further satisfy his political appetite. Though Owens is still very much interested in the success of credit unions after five years at NCUA, he planned to leave the federal regulator at the end of last week to pursue another political appointment. Details had not been released as of press time. NCUA Chairman JoAnn Johnson and former Chairman Dennis Dollar, who initially brought Owens on board at the agency, had very different takes on public relations, but the communications and political veteran nimbly handled the change in administration. “It has been a sincere honor to serve Chairman Johnson and former Chairman Dollar, two distinguished leaders whose mark on the credit union system will be long-lasting. They were both tremendous bosses and have a shared philosophy of regulatory flexibility. Through their leadership, the NCUA has been catapulted to new heights.” In line with the president’s often-espoused results oriented philosophy, Owens added, “I share their belief that accomplishment is more than good intentions, it’s good results. They empowered staff to achieve solid results.” Johnson and Dollar had nothing but positive things to say about their mutual PR specialist as well. “Nick has been a great asset to NCUA and to me personally,” Johnson said. “His professional communication skills, coupled with his dedication and desire to see credit unions thrive and be able to serve those who lack access to affordable financial services, were great attributes for helping NCUA establish Access Across America and our Economic Empowerment Summits, in addition to the regular press inquiries. “I wish Nick much success in his new endeavor, I’m always pleased and proud when a member of my team can advance in their career.” Dollar wished him well and stated that Owens has a “tremendous future in Washington.” But, he added, “I hate to see him leave NCUA. I think he’s a tremendously talented individual.” Though public service is in Owens’ blood, he said he would not rule out possibilities in the private sector. He remarked, “I have a keen interest in the long-term success and viability of not-for-profit financial cooperatives.” Owens, 31, has tried be stay involved in both politics and communications most of his life. As a teenager, he worked as a youth coordinator on Trent Lott’s (R-Miss.) first campaign for the Senate. He was the news director for a local radio station as a kid. Owens was also a young entrepreneur with his own video production company, Nicko Video, shooting weddings and other events. More recently, he served in the policy division of the Bush/Cheney Presidential Transition Team, then did a brief stint at the White House, which he lives just blocks from, before joining NCUA and lives just blocks from there. He walks out his apartment building to see the Department of Justice, the Archives and other national symbols, he explained. “There’s not a day I don’t think it’s an honor to serve.” Owens even ran for Congress, though unsuccessfully, in 2000 for Mississippi’s fourth district, encompassing the Mississippi Gulf Coast area. (Owens, himself, was caught in Katrina during a visit home and recalled waiting in two-hour gas lines and all the rest.) “A lot of folks talk about running for office, but it takes someone to get in the arena, in the trenches to really experience the work of campaigns,” he said of the experience. It was also the district where Dollar had run unsuccessfully. As for his interest in running again, he said rather cryptically, “The good Lord opens and closes doors. If you want God to laugh, just tell him your plans. I’m not going to be presumptuous of my future. I look forward to opportunities to serve my community whether in public office or in the private sector.” During his tenure at NCUA, Owens worked closely with the White House on agency issues, including the appointments of the NCUA Board and staff appointees. Access Across America was a pet project of his at the agency, which allowed him to work together with other federal agencies and broaden NCUA’s media coverage. “Partnering with other federal agencies-that was important to me,” he said, because it got NCUA and the credit union community better known within Washington and the media and, therefore, the general public. “It’s fun work. I love working with the media, being a media guy myself,” he said. NCUA held Economic Empowerment Summits under the Access Across America banner, which informed credit unions of the opportunities available to them by using partnership opportunities with other federal agencies. The summits drew speakers from the top ranks of Treasury, SBA, and the Department of Agriculture to name a few. “I’m passionate about the president’s ownership society agenda,” Owens said, specifically pointing to credit unions’ role in the member business lending arena. Generally, to face their current and future challenges, credit unions need to keep doing what they do best, he said. “They need to continue to do what they’ve been doing for decades,” he commented, “which is continuing to provide access to affordable financial services.” Taxation will always be an issue and the bankers will keep dragging NCUA and the credit unions into court, but really they should be seeking ways to work together on common issues. With regulatory challenges, commenting is key, Owens stressed. “Commenters are very important. They may not realize it but commenters have an impact on the final rule,” he said. But writing in against the data collection effort entirely is not likely to make that issue go away. “This is in response to Congress and [the Government Accountability Office] so it’s important to respond to Congress and GAO,” he said. Credit unions need to develop statistics to demonstrate their service to people from all walks of life. Owens clarified, “This is not CRA. This is not anything remotely in that direction.” The lawsuits in Texas over the mutual savings bank conversion, the American Bankers Association lawsuits, and the Nov. 3 tax hearing, among other issues, have made Owens’ professional life quite the challenge during his time at NCUA. “I enjoy it. I love to meet challenges head on. I see them as opportunities,” he said. -

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