Jennifer Wagner—NWCUA’s Advocate in Chief

Taking multiple messages, blending them with interlocking strategies and stirring gently into a potent dose of effective yet anti-inflammatory advocacy requires skilled chemistry. But in that arena The Northwest Credit Union Association’s (NWCUA) Vice President of Legislative Affairs Jennifer Wagner is proving to be one of the best chemists in the political laboratory known as the United States Congress.

A major factor in NWCUA’s political influence with the Oregon and Washington congressional delegations, Wagner has been leading member credit unions’ advocacy efforts since joining what was then the Credit Union Association of Oregon (CUAO) in June of 2009.

“I love the commitment of our credit union leaders who are always willing to engage our elected officials on the issues critical to credit union members throughout the Northwest” Wagner said.

That engagement has taken on a higher level of importance this spring as Congress struggles to extract additional federal revenues to mitigate a growing national debt. Last week Wagner led a delegation of NWCUA credit union leaders to Washington, D.C. to help stem growing political efforts aimed at ending credit unions’ historical exemption from federal corporate taxes.

“She is exceptional at making sure our advocates have the information they need in a timely manner,” said Kevin Cole of Maps Credit Union. “Jennifer is well known and respected by the congressional delegation,” Cole added.

Wagner started her political career as a legislative aide to State Representative Deborah Kafoury in 1999. Her skills landed her a job in Washington D.C., with Oregon Congresswoman Darlene Hooley. Wagner stayed in the Hooley office, either in Washington D.C. or the Oregon District Office until the Congresswoman retired following the 2008 Congress. After a brief stint with newly elected Congressman Kurt Schrader, Wagner extended her Oregon roots and joined the credit union advocacy team.

“Jennifer has a way of taking complex financial issues and distilling them to understandable concepts for congressional staffers,” noted NWCUA President and CEO, Troy Stang.

During the visit on Capitol Hill last week, Wagner was called upon by CUNA to address her national counterparts on the issue of taxation and steps the NWCUA is taking to counter the bank-led offensive.

Then it was off to the Hill with NWCUA advocates in tow to drive home the key messages that highlight the cooperative, not-for-profit difference credit unions bring to consumer choice. Armed with targeted and succinct talking points, NWCUA’s delegations engaged Congressional members effectively during the short window of time afforded the delegation.

“I think the biggest challenge right now is ensuring our members see the importance of connecting with Congress on a sustained level. Many in Congress feel we are about due for a serious conversation about our tax exemption and we must take this threat very seriously,” Wagner said.

Like a game of legislative hopscotch, the NWCUA delegation leaped from one congressional office to the next, weaving a familiar thread of consumer choice, community service and cooperative structure to our federal representatives.

“Not only does Jennifer bring clarity of message to our congressional delegation, she also brings understanding to our credit union members of a sometimes unexplainable congressional process,” Stang noted.

Wagner is now on the front lines of helping to develop and implement a coordinated strategy to preserve the tax status of credit unions by engaging rank and file credit union members, the press and other consumer groups.

“My job is sometimes unpredictable, never dull and always stimulating. I am proud to help our members engage our nation’s decision makers on the critical issues that affect everyday people and their financial futures. Without their commitment we wouldn’t enjoy the success we have experienced over the years,” Wagner said.

And the feelings are mutual. “Jennifer is a real asset to Northwest credit unions,” Cole said in summing up what CEO’s throughout the region feel about their advocate-in-chief.

 

Questions? Contact Lynn Heider: 503.350.2225, lheider@nwcua.org.

Posted in NWCUA.