Northwest ‘Crashers’ Reflect on Jet Lag, 17-Hour Days, and ‘Unforgettable’ GAC Experience

Crasher Will Horlen with CUNA President and CEO Jim Nussle.

“My first day back in the office I had a voicemail from a CEO I had met, who called just to hear about my experience,” said Will Horlen about his return from “crashing” CUNA’s 2015 Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC).

Horlen, a loan and member service officer at STCU’s North Branch, was one of two young credit union professionals from the Northwest — and one of 52 nationally — who won the opportunity to “Crash the GAC,” a program put on by The Cooperative Trust in partnership with CUNA. Crashers got free registration for the GAC and enjoyed an energetic side program to immerse young leaders in the magic of the movement.

“I simply would not have been able to attend the GAC without the crasher program, or the assistance of the Northwest Credit Union Foundation Grassroots Scholarship,” said Horlen. The Northwest Credit Union Foundation provided scholarships to help cover the travel and lodging costs for Oregon and Washington crashers.

During the week of GAC, crashers’ schedules started at 7 a.m. and often didn’t end until 11 p.m. or later. Along with attending the major events of the GAC, crashers were treated to special sessions featuring top movement professionals including leaders of the NCUF, various credit unions, leagues, and even special visits from CUNA President and CEO Jim Nussle.

“The crasher experience added a personal touch to my GAC experience,” said Horlen. “There were 5,000 attendees at the GAC, but only 52 crashers. We had crasher sessions before each GAC session, in between GAC sessions and following the afternoon GAC sessions. Each of the crasher sessions featured speakers, some who also presented on the main stage at the GAC. These crasher sessions were essentially one-on-one conversations with powerful people in the credit union world. Without the crasher program, very few, if any, of us would have had the chance to sit down with those types of professionals, such as Jim Nussle.”

Crasher Bree Ediger in front of the White House.

“This was one of the most memorable and exciting opportunities I’ve ever had,” said Bree Ediger, university relations officer at Maps Credit Union, who was the other crasher from the Northwest.

Ediger said that jet lag made the packed schedule challenging. “Not only did I lose three hours flying coast-to-coast,” said Ediger, “but then we had daylight savings time the day after I got there. Our schedule was pretty full, starting our morning crasher sessions at 7 a.m., and sometimes not ending our evening until close to midnight.”

But she is not complaining. “My experience as a crasher at the GAC was nothing short of amazing,” said Ediger. “As crashers, we shared enthusiasm and exhaustion, endless amount of laughs, as well as some tears while saying goodbye. It was truly an experience I will never forget.”

Horlen agreed, saying that the experience will boost his career for years to come. “I left the GAC with 52 new credit union professionals in my network,” he said. “I also left with a greater understanding for current issues credit unions face, such as our tax status, security of data held by retailers, and the business lending cap, and the importance of having our voices heard regarding these issues.”

Questions about this story? Contact James Pearson: 206.340.4790,

Posted in CUNA, Events.