Debie Keesee Presented with Lifetime Achievement Award at MAXX 2019
October 22, 2019
It was a grand night of celebration last Thursday in Spokane during the MAXX 2019 Awards Gala, where 10 credit unions and four industry luminaries were celebrated on stage for their excellence.
The Northwest Credit Union Association presented its highest honors – the Summit Awards – to credit union teams and individuals who’ve demonstrated outstanding service to the Credit Union Movement and its millions of consumer members.
“Our 2019 Summit award winners moved mountains to accomplish amazing achievements last year,” Troy Stang, NWCUA President and CEO, told the gala’s attendees. “They championed the People Helping People philosophy, elevated the member experience and strengthened their financial lives, empowered the communities they serve, provided inspiring leadership to team members, and transformed their credit unions through innovation.”
The night spotlighted many credit union achievements, including those of Debie Keesee, CEO of Spokane Media Federal Credit Union, who was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
“We all applaud you and thank you for your unwavering dedication each day to the credit union industry,” Stang said.
As the audience rose for a thunderous standing ovation, a large support group of family members, mentors, and colleagues who had been waiting backstage surprised Keesee as the trophy was presented.
“I am blessed that the movement I chose to make my career is really easy to be passionate about and devoted to,” Keesee said. “How lucky I am to have worked with people across the nation who share my love for credit unions and the work we do every day on behalf of our members. The support of my board, team, and family to do that work is icing on the cake.”
While serving as the credit union’s CEO for 22 years, Keesee also successfully advocated for state and federal legislation, resulting in many wins over the years. As a steadfast supporter of the unique structure of credit unions and the value they bring to consumers, she led the effort to protect credit unions’ not-for-profit structure time and time again when others set out to eliminate it. Just last year, she was an early champion of legislation, allowing municipal governments in Washington state to deposit public funds in credit unions, resulting in choice and better returns on taxpayer deposits.
Keesee served on the NWCUA Board of Directors for nine years, recently stepping down this year. Prior to that, she served on the Washington Credit Union League’s Board of Directors for nine years. She’s also served on the Credit Union National Association’s Small Credit Union Committee, as well as held other committee member roles with CUNA. Currently, she serves on the National Credit Union Association’s Board of Directors, where she provides a voice for credit unions throughout the western states and Guam, as well as the National Credit Union Foundation Board of Directors.
Mary Vasquez, Community Advocate with Point West Credit Union, was recognized for her outstanding dedication to members with the Young Credit Union Leader Award. Vasquez has focused her career on reaching out to members of all backgrounds and cultures, and helped her credit union obtain its Juntos Avanzamos designation, making it the second credit union to receive the designation in the Northwest. She also committed hundreds of hours of service to more than 30 community organizations.
It was an emotional moment for Vasquez, who began her credit union career during the Great Recession.
“I just want to say thank you to my Point West family for believing in me. They’re the ones doing the work every day,” said Vasquez. Helping members, she added is her “why.”
“It doesn’t matter where you came from,” Vasquez said. “Everyone should have access to a financial institution.”
John Moore, Chief Experience Officer with Wauna Credit Union, was recognized for his innovative ways in further elevating the member experience. Moore was presented with the Impact Award for his efforts in creating effective training programs that empower staff and help them have a deeper understanding of the “why” behind their work. One of his many projects, “Inside the Numbers,” breaks down each member’s financial information, so when they meet with a Wauna staff member, they’re provided with highly personalized service.
Moore’s wife and daughter surprised him on stage to help present the honor.
Tim George, Director at Rogue Credit Union, was honored as this year’s Distinguished Director. George has served the credit union’s Board of Directors for 27 years. In that time, he helped guide the credit union through leadership transitions and the Great Recession. He served the city of Medford, Oregon, in several roles, including as Chief of Police. Even with his law enforcement background, George admitted, he did not see the honor coming.
“They pulled one off on me,” Moore quipped. “I don’t deserve this, but I’ll take it.”
NWCUA also honored 10 credit unions for outstanding community service and impact. Nine credit unions serving the Portland area received the Cooperation in Action Award for jointly holding the Portland Metro Credit Union Career Fair in 2018, which raised awareness about the benefits of working in not-for-profit, cooperative credit unions. The fair was successfully held again this year in downtown Portland. Honored credit unions included Unitus Community, Advantis, Clackamas Federal, First Tech Federal, iQ, Point West, Rivermark Community, SELCO Community, and Trailhead.
CapEd Credit Union received the Members on Main Street Award for its ‘Get $100 and Give $100’ program, which resulted in more than $80,000 in contributions benefitting 243 local schools. CapEd deposited $100 in each new member’s High Yield Checking Account, which members were then able to direct to the school of their choice. The funds supported school projects such as reading programs, study toolkits, classroom organization tools, and computer technology.
“Every credit union and every individual honored has made a positive difference in the lives of credit union members and their communities,” Stang said. “The People Helping People philosophy isn’t just an idea; it’s a way of life, and Northwest credit unions and their teams are living it.”