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I will be retiring July 31 after spending 41 years in the credit union system. I joined a Texas credit union in 1968 as collection manager. After that I joined the California League Services Corp. in 1984 as its first marketing person and left as vice president and chief operation officer and had the pleasure of working with and learning from Bill Broxterman, former CCUL president. I was CEO of a CUSO and then went to Financial 21 Community CU in San Diego, where I’ve been CEO for 14 years. Some might say I had a hard time holding down a job. The truth is I have the attention span of a gnat with ADD and tend to always be looking for new experiences and challenges. Something I’ve gained with past experiences is a broad perspective of what it’s like in and around credit unions. We were helping our members not customers, and we knew almost all of them by their first names. We were offering them fair and honest deals to help them with their financial needs. To this day, I continue to feel good about what I do. Credit unions truly do wear the white hats in the financial services industry. Although we have been hurt indirectly by the excessive greed and stupendous blunders in other financial sectors, credit unions are moving forward on a much steadier course these days than other institutions. Credit unions are making business loans to those who have been turned down by banks, and we are working hard to help members caught up in the throes of the recession. Since we have consistently proven ourselves to be the good guys, here’s my question: Why is it that we have to continue operating under restrictions that other financial institutions do not have to deal with? Why are we still limited to fields of membership when others have no such requirement? Why is our net worth requirement higher than others when we are still standing tall while other much larger institutions have crashed and burned or required a handout from Uncle Sam? Why are credit unions limited in their ability to make business loans? Now more than ever, credit unions should be recognized for what they offer consumers and the country. We have an audience of about 90 million members (read voters) across the country. I think that number allows us to be more forceful with our representatives in Washington and state capitals. Yes, it’s been a great ride all these years, and I will be watching the changes taking place in the future although I will be doing it from the sidelines. Even though the next few years will bring many challenges, I’m confident the thousands of credit union professionals and volunteers across the country will rise to the occasion, preserve the credit union option and keep our ideals and spirit alive.

Peter Westerman

Credit Union Times

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