This year it was CU Times’ honor to host our ninth-annual Trailblazer Awards reception to honor a variety of credit unions, executives and volunteers that are moving credit unions toward the future while maintaining their humanity. They do things differently and successfully and avoid internal inertia.

By far, the most dramatic stories were those of President/CEO Joe Thomas Jr. and Vice President of IT Nicole Bowen of Fairfax County Federal Credit Union, our Trailblazer CEO and IT Executive of the Year, respectively. Work on the building’s roof started a fire that caused $400,000 in damage, but the credit union executives were thankful on a number of levels: everyone was safe—at least after Thomas pulled one of the roofers, who was worried about getting tar on the carpeting—from the burning building; the dedication of the employees to their work at the credit union; and the brand new disaster recovery plan was working like a charm.

Bowen, apparently clairvoyant, recognized the need for disaster preparedness at the $281 million credit union. Just months after all of the systems and the plan were put in place, it came in quite handy while the building burned and firefighters deluged her new data center. And, as if being responsible for IT was not enough, Bowen is also a certified compliance officer. Thomas applauded Bowen’s all around leadership in the face of such disaster, regulatory and fire.

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