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LAS VEGAS — Delegates to last week’s annual convention of the California/Nevada Credit Union Leagues got to cheer their new boss, Bill Cheney, on two fronts. First, the former Xerox Federal Credit Union CEO from El Segundo, Calif., had made it through the first eight months on the job with nary a hitch. And second, they could crow about positive results from the Nov. 7 election, earning high marks for political advocacy for California/Nevada CUs on both the state and national level. Regarding his March 1 takeover of the combined leagues as president/CEO, Cheney was praised as an effective manager who has overseen a “seamless transition” following the retirement last December of the leagues’ long-term, renowned president, David Chatfield. Chatfield spent the summer with family at his Soldotna, Alaska, vacation home and next May will be inducted into the Cooperative Hall of Fame in Washington. He was among the dignitaries at the Las Vegas convention joining in the Cheney applause and was honored earlier for 40 years of service to the industry. “The transition has gone extremely well and you have to recognize Bill Cheney’s extraordinary credibility and responsibility in moving over from Xerox and you have to know also that Dave Chatfield is a class act,” declared the newly installed chairman of the leagues, Debra Gannaway-Grisamer. Chatfield stuck around during the winter and spring to “provide invaluable insight and contacts for Bill,” said Gannaway-Grisamer, who also is president of the $145 million Norton Community Credit Union of San Bernardino. And now, like other California/Nevada CEOs, she is pleased that the Cheney administration has already put personnel and resources to work to address the industry’s prime concern–declining membership growth. “There are a lot of smart people in this industry and we just have to put our heads together and come up with programs that will address this problem,” said Gannaway-Grisamer. In his speech to an estimated 1,400 CU executives assembled at the Bellagio Casino/Resort, Cheney thanked Chatfield while also focusing on the outcome of the mid-term election and the special role California/Nevada will have with “CU friends”–House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat. “Change is in the air and we are now in a very strong position,” declared Cheney ticking off several key races where CU backers were victorious in California and elsewhere. In particular, and in a remark greeted with applause, Cheney mentioned the ascendance of a Democrat in the northern California seat held by Bill Thomas, the former chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, which two years ago began serious scrutiny of taxing CUs. The new chairman would be New York Democrat Charles Rangel. On the GOP side, he said, the industry should be heartened by the victory of another CU supporter, Brian Bilbray, of San Diego, a CURIA sponsor who ran for the unexpired term of Randy Cunningham, a Republican jailed in a lobbying scandal. As for Reid, he has long been a CU backer, said Cheney, and while he does not know Pelosi personally many on the league staffers do. “I think it is interesting that she is not only the first woman speaker in history but the first speaker from California.” Cheney in his talk warned CUs that the danger of more bank attacks remains keen, which is why the trade group’s advocacy efforts get so much attention and resources. As evidence of the banking challenge, he pointed to the comments of former American Bankers Association Chairman Harris Simmons about CUs being “anti-competitive.” Cheney surmised that Simmons drew his conclusions from remarks Cheney had made about CUs keeping banks competitive on both rates and fees. “Banks don’t like it,” when CUs become competitive, he said, urging the CU audience to keep on offering the lower rates and fees. On a lighter note, in keeping with a convention theme of “it takes more than magic” to serve members, the biggest audience laughs came for Cheney and for outgoing chairman, James McPheters of San Diego, both of whom popped out of a magician’s box on the stage. The “seamless” magic was performed by Bob Higa, a professional Chicago magician and motivational speaker who served as master of ceremonies throughout the convention. –[email protected]

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