Idaho Credit Union Champion and Leader, Val Brooks, to Retire this Month

Brooks shares valuable insight on the future of the Credit Union Movement and reflects on her time in the industry.

1/14/2020

Val Brooks (center, in white) takes a photo with U.S. Senator Mike Crapo (back row, center right), Idaho credit union leaders, and other credit union experts after an event held at her home in August 2016.

At the end of January, Val Brooks will retire after leading Idaho’s Simplot Employees Credit Union as President and CEO for eight years.

Brooks made a difference in the lives of her members and fiercely advocated on behalf of the industry, playing an instrumental role in furthering the Credit Union Movement throughout Idaho. Her credit union career spanned more than four decades.

Prior to her time at Simplot, Brooks dedicated 11 years to credit union advancement, serving as Regulatory and Governmental Affairs Director for the Idaho Credit Union League, and 22 years in operations, lending, and collections for two different credit unions. In addition, she served on the Idaho Credit Union League’s Board of Directors from 2016 to 2018 and played a key role in the merger between the Idaho league and the Northwest Credit Union Association.

“In over 20 years of working with credit union professionals from all over the country, I have met few individuals with Val’s passion for credit unions and philosophy of ‘People Helping People,’” said Will Hall, Director of Legal Advocacy for the Northwest Credit Union Foundation. “Just in the eight years that I have known her, she has served on community boards and committees, knocked on constituents’ doors to help credit union-friendly legislators get elected, met with community leaders to develop and implement programs to help serve the underserved, hosted fundraisers at her home with her husband, Dick, and traveled to D.C. to advocate legislation and policy beneficial to credit unions and their members. Full of fire, drive, and caring, Val’s DNA must have credit unions written into it.”

Val Brooks will retire after leading Idaho’s Simplot Employees Credit Union as President and CEO for eight years.

Indeed, Brooks has made a difference and touched thousands of lives. Anthem recently sat down with her to find out more about her career, what motivates her, what she sees for the future of the Credit Union Movement, and why she loves the industry she’s called home for 42 years.

Q. What did you love most about working with credit unions?

A.There is much to love about credit unions. It still amazes me that despite growth and changes in the Movement, we still come together with a cooperative spirit to fulfill our mission of “People Helping People.” We work together to teach young people about managing their finances; we work in communities to feed, build, and educate; and we help each other keep our credit union open and serving members in times of disaster and economic downturn.

Q. During your credit union career, how has the industry changed? What do you see on the horizon for credit unions? 

A. Well, the Credit Union Movement has certainly gotten bigger! I’ve always felt that you grow or die. That’s personally, professionally, and spiritually. So, I love that the Credit Union Movement has grown. With strong cooperatives like CUNA, the leagues, and associations, and credit unions working together, the Credit Union Movement will remain strong. Our credit union has benefitted from that support, and, as long as that type of cooperation continues between large and small credit unions and associations, [the Movement] will grow and thrive.

Q. Simplot has been so involved in advocacy over the years — why do you feel as a credit union leader that this is important? What can credit unions do to be further involved in advocacy? 

A. When working in credit unions, I watched the Idaho League work hard to engage credit union professionals, volunteers, and members to come to the table. I probably didn’t understand the depth of that at the time, but I tried. Then, after going to the (Idaho) league as the Governmental Affairs Director, I definitely understood. Interacting with legislators and telling them how credit unions helped their constituents, I realized how important involvement by all in the Movement is to getting the message across to legislators. I promised myself to be the kind of advocate I so admired, and who helped me do my job at the League, when I came back to work in a credit union. Passion is contagious, so I hope that is how and why Simplot Employees CU staff and volunteers have continued on the advocacy train. Additionally, the NWCUA team has the passion that helps engage our team.

Q. Tell us about your involvement with the Ronald McDonald House and why it’s important to you. 

A. I started getting involved with Ronald McDonald House Charities because our credit union wanted to support the causes important to the JR Simplot Company, whose employees we serve.

When children are in the hospital, it affects the entire family. Ronald McDonald House offers a place for families to stay close to their sick child and also have a home away from home. It takes a lot of funding and volunteers to support this amazing organization. I encourage anyone, anywhere, to visit a Ronald McDonald House. They will be forever changed. Seeing what the Ronald McDonald House does for families will capture their hearts and their need to be involved. Additionally, it goes hand-in-hand with CU4Kids because Ronald McDonald Houses are located near children’s hospitals worldwide. 

Q. Tell us about some of your proudest moments in the credit union industry. 

A. My proudest moments are two-part: The people inside the Credit Union Movement, with whom I have been so honored to work beside. They amaze me. The other part is each member we have helped through the years. When you can see, every day, people being helped through your efforts and the efforts of your team and colleagues in the Credit Union Movement, there are daily moments of deep pride. It’s both personally and professionally rewarding. Bottom line: What’s not to be proud of in a credit union career?

Q. What are your plans for retirement?

A. My plans for retirement are to spend time with my husband, Dick. I love crafting, quilting, and writing so I plan to do a lot of those things. We have many nieces and nephews, and it will be so fun to attend their programs and concerts. Even being born and raised in Idaho, there are some places of interest I have yet to see, and I plan to see them. I will also stay involved in credit unions and volunteer to help wherever they need me.

Q. Do you have any final thoughts or memories you’d like to share?

A. My favorite CU career memory is when I went from 23 years in a credit union to working at the League in Governmental Affairs. I knew a lot about credit unions but not much about advocating with legislators. I asked a CU member who worked for one of our U.S. Senators if he would have lunch with me and let me know how best to advocate with his boss and others. He said, “Well Val, you have to know that not everyone is as passionate about credit unions as you.” I could understand that. But when he said that state and federal legislators had more important things than credit unions, I couldn’t buy that. I said, “Name one thing,” and he said, “timber.” I said, “Potlatch No. 1 FCU.” He said, “Education,” and I followed with naming credit unions that served the educational communities. That went on for a bit with him naming areas of interest for legislators and me countering it with credit unions who served people in those areas. And when he realized that (at that time) Idaho credit unions served one-third of the population, he understood that credit unions were very important to their constituents statewide. Now that we serve over half the population in Idaho, it is even more important to make sure our lawmakers know how critical credit unions are to communities all over the state and nation.

Editor’s Note: Val Brooks’ official last day at Simplot is Jan. 30. Those who would like to honor her and her career can attend a retirement celebration for her on that day, from 5 to 8 p.m. in the Inspire Room at JUMP in Boise, 1000 W. Myrtle St.