Rogue’s Liz Shelby Honored as Volunteer Advocate of the Year

If conventional wisdom tells us that what you know isn’t as important as who you know, then Rogue Federal Credit Union Board Secretary Liz Shelby is an example of just what can be accomplished when expertise and connections converge. Shelby was honored during the 2011 Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA) Convention and Annual Business Meeting last month as the Oregon Volunteer Advocate of the Year.

Shelby has been serving on Rogue’s board of directors since 2004, and while she was a relative newcomer to the credit union movement when she joined, she quickly became a strong voice in support of the credit union’s “people helping people” ideal.

“I believe in the cooperative model for doing business,” Shelby said. “I think it’s an essential financial service in our community, to serve those folks who are underserved or who are not well-served. I just feel that [credit unions] provide an incredible service to their members and do it very graciously and gratefully, so I just feel it’s the best if you choose to have anything other than a mattress for your money.”

Shelby’s list of accomplishments as an advocate is long. She has attended the Credit Union National Association’s (CUNA) Government Affairs Conference several times, is active on Rogue’s governmental affairs committee, and plays a role in Credit Union Legislative Action Committee (CULAC) fundraising every year. Whenever a state or federal lawmaker visits southern Oregon, Shelby is there promoting the credit union message. But initially, it was actually her experience with small businesses that first opened the door for her involvement with Rogue.

“She was the head of the Small Business Development Center for [Southern Oregon University],” said Gene Pelham, Rogue’s President/CEO. “We knew we were going into business lending at the time, and we wanted someone with her expertise to be on the board.”

While her experience certainly played a role in Rogue’s member business lending operations, her connections within the community quickly proved even more valuable. As Southern Oregon University’s director of government relations and chief of staff to the president, Shelby is extremely familiar with the political arena and has forged strong connections within the community, and she has been able to use those connections to Rogue’s benefit.

“When there are opportunities to educate some of our either newly-elected [officials] or folks who have not been very familiar with some of the issues that the credit union is striving for, [I] find those opportunities to have credit union individuals, board members and staff meet with them to better inform them,” Shelby said. “So, it’s primarily just serving as I can to introduce folks, to make the link to elected officials with those people who can best speak to the issues.”

Pelham frames it more simply.

“She connects me with the right people that I need to be connected with,” he said. “Because she’s connected with them all.”

But Shelby explains that the emphasis on credit union advocacy works from the top down at Rogue, where improving opportunities for credit unions and their members is always at the forefront. Knowing that advocacy is a priority makes it that much easier for her to achieve results.

“I give credit to our CEO, Gene Pelham, and his senior staff, as well as our other board members,” she said. “They are very interested in the credit union movement and stay well informed, and we sort of share information and help each other stay in the know. And without that staff support particularly, it would be more difficult to know when the best time to put a word in would be. So, I do feel that our credit union has made advocacy a priority, for staff and for the board.”

Similarly, Pelham calls Shelby “a tremendously dedicated volunteer that really serves as a mentor for me in the political advocacy area.”

Essentially, Shelby’s role illustrates just how deeply Rogue’s work is rooted in the cooperative spirit. Even their advocacy supporting the cooperative spirit is done with a cooperative spirit.

Of course, this mentality is more effective when continually partnered with hard work, and it is Shelby’s tireless effort that makes her a truly outstanding advocate.

“In a recent bill that was introduced in the state of Oregon, I tracked it pretty closely, and when we did discover that there were a few who voted ‘no’ on the bill, I helped again make those links to convert the ‘no’s’ to a ‘yes,’” Shelby said. “So the job is not ever finished just because you accomplish one particular effort. It is ongoing.”


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Posted in Advocacy News, Awards, Business Solutions, Industry Insight.