PORT NECHES, Texas – Former Neches Federal Credit Union Executive Vice President Andrea Johnson may have retired from her position, but she is still maintaining her credit union ties by serving on the board. It is appropriate since Johnson’s whole 36-year credit union career has been at Neches FCU. “I was working at a jewelry chain and thought I had a pretty good job but my neighbor who was a credit union manager kept insisting I had to come work for the credit union,” said Johnson. “Luckily I took her advice. Working for Neches FCU has been such a wonderful experience. And now being a board member gives me a wonderful opportunity to stay involved in something I’m still passionate about.” From an early start as a teller, Johnson moved up the ranks serving as Neches FCU CEO from 1985 to 2004. In 2003, she was named Small Business Person of the Year for her philanthropic community and work related efforts. No stranger to volunteering her time she has served on the executive committee for the Texas Credit Union League Board of Directors, and was the state chairman for the TCUL Credit Unions for Kids, which benefits the Children’s Miracle Network. She has also served as president of the Sabine Chapter of Credit Unions and was a past member of the Executive Board of Partnership of Southeast Texas. Outside credit unionland, Johnson was also a Charter Member and past president of the Pride League of Port Neches, which was nationally recognized for spearheading a group of volunteers to build Tugboat Island, the largest wood playground in Texas. She is a current member and past president of the Port Neches Chamber of Commerce. In 2004, the credit union then merged with Huntsman Federal Credit Union where her son Jason Landry served as CEO. “I knew I wanted to retire in a few years so Jason became CEO and I stayed on as executive vice president for the last few years of my career,” said Johnson. “With the merger we ended up with a 15-member board so when one of our directors passed away I was appointed to take his place.” Another merger in January of this year with Beaumont Telco FCU now has the board focusing on improving its current strategies in place. “Serving as a board member gives me a new perspective on the credit union,” said Johnson. “With the mergers our board is definitely representative of the three credit unions and we all work cohesively as a team to best serve the needs of our members as a whole-without any secret agendas.” With so many board members Johnson says having a consent agenda helps keep the monthly board meetings focused on exploring new technology for the CU, promotion ideas and new initiatives. Strategic planning is not just reserved for the annual planning meeting but reviewed monthly or quarterly. “The consent agenda really helps speed things up especially on items that are more informative than requiring an actual approval,” said Johnson. “It is amazing that more credit unions don’t use them. It frees us up and helps us stay fluid and flexible to respond to needs as they arise.” She adds that because the board is so dynamic there is no shortage of people wanting to join and the mergers provided a slew of seasoned leaders who are ready to take the credit union into the future. “I think it is important for volunteers to stay informed so our board stays updated by reading trade publications, attending conferences and making use of the Volunteer Achievement program,” said Johnson. “It also helps that the CEO sets aside time for board members to come in and talk. Good CEO and board relations are based on great communication and it takes lots of hard work. I also believe that sharing ideas, which is the cornerstone of the credit union movement, should continue to be a priority for credit unions as a whole. Looking ahead our strength is in our unity-and we can’t forget in addition to serving the doctors and lawyers, those people making $6 an hour who need small loans to buy clothes for their children.” With five sons and seven grandchildren Johnson says she is looking forward to not only honing her cooking skills but also spending more time with her grandchildren. -mdigiovanni@cutimes.com