Gesa’s Griffith, Maps’ Henderson Chosen to be Northwest’s ‘Crashers’ at 2014 GAC

Brian Griffith made sure that Gesa Credit Union and its members were heard in Washington, D.C., and Olympia last year by leading an online “Don’t Tax My Credit Union” campaign that generated thousands of legislative contacts.

Maps Credit Union’s Liz Henderson works every day with college students in Salem, many of whom have never heard of credit unions, to answer some pretty basic questions: “What makes credit unions different? And what makes them better?”

Griffith and Henderson are incredibly passionate about sharing the credit union story, and about protecting its unique place on the financial landscape. And now they’ll get to share that passion on the industry’s biggest advocacy stage. Both have been selected to represent the Northwest and “crash” CUNA’s 2014 Governmental Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C., later this month. 

Now celebrating its fifth year, “Crash the GAC” gives young credit union professionals a chance not only to attend the full slate of GAC events, but also to get together in smaller groups to explore advocacy opportunities and share ideas.

CUNA and The Cooperative Trust partner with state leagues to choose representatives from each state and Washington, D.C., to take part in the event. Griffith will represent Washington, Henderson will represent Oregon; CUNA will cover their conference registration, the Northwest Credit Union Association will ensure that the crashers are plugged in to Northwest-specific events and Hill meetings, and both crashers will receive memberships in The Cooperative Trust.

“Brian and Liz are already doing great things in their credit unions and communities,” says Jennifer Wagner, the NWCUA’s senior vice president for legislative affairs. “After they attend the conference and join us on Capitol Hill, they will return to their credit union not only as advocates, but also as leaders — sharing their energy and passion with others at their credit union and the members they interact with on a daily basis.”

Henderson has worked for Maps since November 2009 as a teller, a financial services officer and now as the Salem credit union’s university relations officer. Working on the Willamette University campus, she says, gives her a chance to have “very natural and authentic conversations about what exactly credit unions do.”

“Some of the best conversations have been with non-members, who come to me in an almost challenging way,” Henderson says. Explaining the credit union difference to those students is a daily reminder that “advocating for the movement is hugely important for all of us. I have seen the positive impact that we have on our members and the community, and it’s essential that we are able not only to continue this tradition of excellence, but also to grow public support for our mission, philosophy and tax-exempt status.”

Griffith would certainly agree with that.

As Gesa’s assistant vice president of marketing, Griffith leads a team that has received regional and national recognition for a variety of marketing efforts — including last year’s phenomenally successful “Don’t Tax My Credit Union” campaign. It’s important, he says, for credit union professionals to continuously advocate for the movement “because we are well-suited to be the voice of our membership in an increasingly difficult legislative landscape.”

“But I also think those conversations need to go beyond credit union management and staff,” Griffith says. “I believe it is our responsibility to seek out and discover ways to directly connect our members with their elected officials to share how being a credit union member has benefited their lives. Real change happens when elected officials understand the direct benefit of having credit unions working in the communities they represent.”

This will be the first trip to GAC for Griffith and Henderson. Both say they’re looking forward to mentorship sessions and leadership training, the unique chance to meet with industry leaders and opportunities to “hike the Hill” and meet face-to-face with congressmen and senators. “And it isn’t every day that you have an opportunity to hear from the likes of Madeline Albright and Tony Blair,” Griffith says. 

“I’m also looking forward to hearing new perspectives from young professionals from around the country who share the same passion for the credit union movement,” Henderson says. “Advocacy events like this will give me the knowledge and experience not only to inform the young professionals and students that I work with, but also to include them in the credit union movement.”

More information about the 2014 Governmental Affairs Conference can be found on CUNA’s website. Details about “Crash the GAC” are available on the event’s website. And look for information about future Crash opportunities on The Cooperative Trust’s website.  


Questions? Contact Gary Stein: 503.350.2216,

Posted in Advocacy News, CUNA, Events.