Amid all the gloom and doom news of the day, it is nice to be able to highlight some good news stories. I’m talking about our 2009 Trailblazer Awards winners featured on pages 26 through 32 of this issue. We are highlighting the efforts of these executives and credit unions, but so many more exist whose horns never get tooted.So many dedicated professionals and volunteers serve the credit union community, and most could be awarded something, from Neatest Bookkeeper to Miss Congeniality. I will emphasize though that while credit unions know all about these people, credit unions would be well-served to make the mainstream press and members of Congress aware of these people as well.Credit Union Times’ CEO of the Year Pamela O’Connell spent her first months as the new chief of Heartland Credit Union putting out a major fire-helping the credit union to recover from the previous CEO’s fraud. Not only did she return the credit union to financial stability and growth, but she understood that the staff had felt betrayed and was ready and willing to listen to their issues.I had misgivings originally about awarding an entire board our Volunteer of the Year just because it was intended to honor an individual. After seeing the team spirit with which State Employees’ Credit Union attacks its challenges and innovates, it’s easy to see that they truly perform as one. With a strong emphasis on education, the credit union invested over $1 billion in the educational futures of the states youth. It also established a foundation funded by a $1 member account fee to further its education, health and human services causes.Our CFO of the Year Dan McGowan at Envision Credit Union set “grandiose” goals for himself, also creating high expectations in the minds of his superiors, and delivered. He even led the charge in developing a trend analysis tool and a loan-loss algorithm to make life easier for everyone.Deb McLean, Credit Union Times’ Marketing Executive of the Year, was exceptionally creative and intuitive, with Carolina Postal Credit Union’s Hoopty campaign. She looked at the membership and recognized their needs, in this case U.S. postal workers’ use of beater cars for their routes. We’ve all needed a beater at one time or another-such as the 1985 Olds Ninety-Eight Regency Brougham Coupe I took to college with me that we actually dubbed “the Hoopty-mobile”-so it applies to their entire membership while also specifically appealing to their core members. The campaign also lent itself to eye-catching graphics and novel contests that spurred member involvement at the credit union.IT Executive of the Year Ben Morales of Washington State Employees Credit Union decided his tech team did not exist merely to fix the technical glitches that can pop up but should be customer-service oriented. Too often when you’re talking about computer chips, servers, and wires, this aspect of the job is overlooked.When it comes to political action, you can’t get much more involved than Choice One Community FCU and recently retired CEO John Kebles, our 2009 Outstanding Political Action Award winner. Kebles and his credit union, in concert with other area credit unions, gave credit union champion and veteran Congressman Paul Kanjorski’s campaign a real shot in the arm when it needed it desperately.Last, but definitely not least, is our Outstanding Service to the Underserved Award. Without doubt, this was the toughest category for our staff to decide upon a winner because so many credit unions do such amazing things, many of them without realizing it; reading these entries made even more unbelievable to me that the term credit union is not a household word. After great debate, Hope Community Credit Union was determined as our winner for the 2009 award.The Jackson, Miss.-based credit union expanded its services to the local, low-income areas through a well-timed partnership with the Enterprise Corp. of the Delta. At the same time the credit union was carrying out its day-to-day service in underserved areas, it also added employees and services to assist members and the community in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, including opening a branch in Biloxi.Every year, our awards contest gets more and more interesting and I encourage all of you to think about who you think would be good candidates for our awards in 2010. This year we added the CFO category. For 2010, we plan to continue all these awards and add a Lending Officer of the Year Award as well as an individual award for Outstanding Community Service. See Credit Union Times’ booth (No. 542) in the GAC vendor hall to nominate your favorite credit union or executive for one of our 2010 awards.–Comments? E-mail [email protected]

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