More Than 200 Northwest Advocates Will Spread the Credit Union Message at 2014 GAC in Washington, D.C.

Tony Blair and Madeleine Albright will be the keynote speakers. Rocker Eddie Money will headline an opening concert. And two of the four Herb Wegner Memorial Awards will go to Northwest executives at a gala event emceed by the NWCUA’s Denise Gabel.

But for more than 200 Northwest credit union advocates, the most important part of CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC) in Washington, D.C., next month will be the chance to meet with every member of the Northwest Congressional delegation in face-to-face meetings arranged by the Northwest Credit Union Association.

It’s a unique chance, says Jennifer Wagner, the NWCUA’s vice president for legislative advocacy, to send a strong message about the importance of credit unions in the Northwest and the passion of the people who believe in them.

“The meetings we have with our delegation during the GAC serve a unique and special purpose,” Wagner says. “Standing-room-only meetings, 100-plus credit union leaders and their families — the visual is incredible and makes a lasting impression on our representatives.”

The 2014 GAC, scheduled for Feb. 23-27, is the credit union movement’s premiere political event. More than 4,000 credit union professionals are expected to gather in the nation’s capital to hear from influential leaders and help set the course for the movement’s future.

Over the course of five days (the complete schedule is here), attendees will:

  • Hear from former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: Blair continues to work for peace in the Middle East and on a variety of initiatives to bridge cultural and religious divides. Albright, a Medal of Freedom honoree and the first female Secretary of State, has also served as a representative to the United Nations and as chair of numerous governmental organizations.
  • Watch as the Northwest takes center stage at the National Credit Union Foundation’s Herb Wegner Awards dinner and gala: Gary Oakland, who led BECU in Seattle to unprecedented growth as its CEO for 26 years, will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement award. Sarah Canepa Bang, president and COO of CO-OP Shared Branching-FSCC, chief strategy officer of CO-OP Shared Branching and a longtime champion of Credit Unions for Kids, will be honored with an Individual Achievement award. And Denise Gabel, the NWCUA’s chief financial officer, will lead the festivities for a second consecutive year.
  • Celebrate the impact of Northwest credit unions on the communities they serve: Unitus Community Credit Union will accept its national Louise Herring Philosophy-in-Action Award and Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Award at a downtown reception.

And yes, 1970s rocker Eddie Money — think “Two Tickets to Paradise” — will headline the opening concert. Political satirists The Capitol Steps will perform later in the week, as will the East Coast dance band Amaretto.

Throughout the conference, the NWCUA has scheduled a series of special events, legislative briefings and visits to Capitol Hill for Northwest advocates, who once again are expected to constitute one of the largest delegations at GAC.

“Despite the distance, Northwest credit unions show up big for this event, and the strong relationships we have with our delegation are a direct result of that,” Wagner says. “I am extremely grateful to Northwest credit union leaders for making this event a priority.”

The Association will host Northwest credit unions at an opening reception on Monday, Feb. 24, at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. Joining Wagner and Gabel at the event will be President/CEO Troy Stang; John Trull, the Association’s director of regulatory advocacy; and Samantha Beeler, its new director of grassroots advocacy.

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On Tuesday, Feb. 25, the Association’s advocacy team will lead separate legislative briefings for Oregon and Washington credit unions and meet with team leaders to plan the next day’s sessions with lawmakers. The briefings are a chance, Wagner says, to explain what advocates and their families can expect when they’re on Capitol Hill.

“Our time with our elected leaders is so brief, so our message points have to be prepared, concise and specific to the person we’re meeting with,” Wagner says. “The briefings are critical to preparing for successful conversations on the Hill.”

The briefings also offer a chance to discuss the message that credit unions will deliver to legislators during a full day of face-to-face meetings with every Northwest congressman and senator. Those Hill meetings will take place all day on Wednesday, Feb. 26.

Preserving the movement’s tax status remains a priority, Wagner says, but advocates will also want to address regulatory relief, housing finance reform, supplemental capital for credit unions and raising the member business lending cap. Northwest CEOs will serve as team leaders, Wagner says, to make sure that all of the key issues are discussed.

NWCUA will cap off the day of legislative meetings with a casual reception on the Hill for legislators and their staffers. It’s the last official gathering of the conference, and perhaps the best opportunity to make an impression inside the Beltway.

“It is imperative that credit union leaders join us at the Hill reception,” Wagner says. “You’ll have sore feet and be hungry and anxious to call it a day, but some of our deepest relationships with legislators and their staffs have come from this reception. It’s a chance to feed a hungry staffer, and that will endear you to them for life.”

Complete conference details will be included in a packet that the NWCUA will give to participants in mid-February and in an appointment brochure distributed to Northwest advocates at GAC. For more information on the conference itself, including schedules, speakers and registration details, go to


Questions? Contact Gary Stein: 503.350.2216,

Posted in Advocacy News, Awards, CUNA, Events.