Valley’s Pagenstecher Named Young Credit Union Professional of the Year

Steve Pagenstecher, vice president of member relations for Valley Credit Union in Salem, Ore., has been named the Young Credit Union Professional of the Year by the Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA) in recognition of his tireless efforts promoting not only his own credit union, but the entire credit union movement.

To hear anyone describe Pagenstecher’s all-encompassing dedication to credit union ideals, you would think he was a lifelong credit union advocate. Or, you may find yourself thinking he was born at a credit union branch; believing he took up the mantle as soon as he could talk.

Take, for example, Jean Wheat-Palm, Valley’s president and CEO, who nominated Pagenstecher for the Summit Award.

“It is the dedication and commitment of people such as Steve that help shape and make our credit union movement so successful today,” Wheat-Palm said. “He is a tireless advocate for credit unions who continuously demonstrates leadership, expertise and dedication to the credit union movement in government and advocacy, both here at the credit union and within the [Northwest Credit Union] Association. He is a person who acts within a moment’s notice for any credit union cause. He is personally becoming a living credit union ambassador with our staff, other credit union professionals and in our community.”

But in talking with Pagenstecher, you quickly learn that his passion for the credit union movement is a relatively new development, and that in many ways, it was made possible by what came before it. Pagenstecher had been working as a marketer for a wholesale mortgage lender after graduating from Oregon State University, but when that market took a nose dive beginning in 2008, Pagenstecher found himself looking for a new line of work.

“I was actually getting married that summer, so I was about to be unemployed and married, which is the perfect combination,” Pagenstecher quipped. But two weeks before his wedding, he got an email from Valley Credit Union President and CEO Jean Wheat-Palm.

He had an opportunity to record a radio resume through a promotion offered by Clear Channel, and what Pagenstecher originally thought might be nothing but a novelty ended up fortuitously catching Wheat-Palm’s ear.

“She asked, ‘Why are you on the radio and what’s this about?’” Pagenstecher said of the initial email. He responded and explained the entire situation, and Wheat-Palm quickly invited him in for an interview. After two interviews, Pagenstecher learned he’d gotten the job—while in Mexico on his honeymoon. “So, that’s how I started working in credit unions.”

The rest of his credit union career has moved even more quickly than the interview process, and Pagenstecher’s name is connected to more credit union committees, conferences, initiatives and volunteer opportunities than even seem possible for one man—let alone one who also has his hand in so many different departments within his own credit union.

Pagenstecher is the president of the NWCUA Capitol Chapter board of directors and a member of the Association’s Oregon Governmental Affairs Committee (GAC), Grassroots Advocacy Committee, Future Leaders Task Force and Oregon Model Credit Union Act Sub-Committee. And he’s a fixture—and occasional presenter—at the Association’s marketing conferences.

Oh, and he also participates on behalf of his credit union in the Salem Chamber of Commerce, the Silverton Chamber of Commerce, and SEDCOR. He’s also the vice president of the Silverton Kiwanis, and serves on the board of directors for the Young Credit Union Professionals (YCUP) of Portland.

Somehow, he still finds the time to work.

According to Wheat-Palm, “He hasn’t learned the word ‘no’!”

“I have to give credit where credit is due, which is to Jean,” Pagenstecher said. “People my age, with my experience, don’t necessarily typically get that opportunity right off the bat. But given the size of our institution, and I guess my interest in it, she’s been willing to foster that drive of mine to be involved.”

At Valley, Pagenstecher was originally hired to simply handle the credit union’s marketing efforts, and he has done that with aplomb. Wheat-Palm described one of his most significant contributions as having been building a “strong, well-defined and recognized brand for Valley.” His efforts earned the Gold MAC award for best website in the September 2011 Marketing Association of Credit Unions, as well as two Spectrum Award honorable mentions in the newsletter and website categories.

He has found innovative ways to collaborate with several community partners and charitable organizations. And, his offers to assist with marketing and public relations efforts for various organizations resulted in more than $10,000 in additional sponsorship dollars beyond Valley’s contributions. He introduced a December Diaper Drive to collect diapers for Family Building Blocks and established promotions for National Credit Union Youth Week.

But as his involvement in the credit union movement has grown—Pagenstecher attended three consecutive CUNA Governmental Affairs Conferences in Washington, D.C., delivered PAC checks to legislators, and developed a valuable relationship with Rep. Kurt Schrader—so has his role at Valley.

Pagenstecher last year worked with the credit union’s lending and management team to develop a “Beat Their Rate” loan promotion to boost loan volumes at Valley, bringing in $1.5 million in new loans and driving a surge in membership growth.

But for Pagenstecher, all this work hardly feels like work.

“I just think credit unions are fantastic,” he said. “I love the fact that we call ourselves a movement rather than an industry. I love that we’re not-for-profit rather than for-profit. I love that we’re member-owned rather than owned by shareholders who are driven by a monetary goal rather than a personal financial stability goal. And so, it’s just really fun for me to be involved and to work with other people in such a collaborative environment.”


Questions? Contact the NWCUA Awards Program: 800.995.9064, ext. 106;

Posted in Business Solutions, Marketing & Communications.