Credit Unions to Congress: We’re Here to Share the Credit Union Difference

The mainstage spotlight shone on Northwest credit unions as more than 5,000 advocates gathered in Washington, D.C., for CUNA GAC.

2/25/2020

Connie Miller, CEO of Icon Credit Union, and Dan Thurman, CEO of East Idaho Credit Union, present the Idaho flag during CUNA GAC’s opening ceremony.

The Credit Union National Association’s Governmental Affairs Conference gaveled in Sunday, with thousands of passionate advocates ready to tell Congress that the best financial services partners for consumers are not-for-profit, cooperative credit unions.

Approximately 250 advocates from Idaho, Oregon, and Washington have joined the Northwest Credit Union Association team in the Beltway and were featured in prominent spotlights as GAC got underway.

Debie Keesee, CEO of Spokane Media Federal Credit Union, was inducted into the Credit Union House Hall of Leaders Sunday.

“Debie is a leading voice of credit unions and has played an essential role in shaping the Credit Union Movement that we know today,” said the Northwest Credit Union Association in its nomination of Keesee.

In his opening keynote address Monday, CUNA President and CEO, Jim Nussle, recognized Old West Federal Credit Union from John Day, Oregon, for stepping up to serve the town of Union, which had been abandoned by banks. Nussle played NWCUA’s video showing how the people of Union embraced their credit union.

Ken Olson, CEO of Old West Federal Credit Union, and Seth Schaefer, CEO of Rivermark Community Credit Union, present the Oregon flag at CUNA GAC.

“Isn’t that cool?” Nussle asked, as he encouraged advocates to amplify the credit union story, both during their advocacy work this week, and back in their home states. His opening keynote address may be viewed online here.

A lineup of nationally known political strategists are delivering keynote addresses during the General Sessions. Speakers include Nikki Haley, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, David Plouffe, Campaign Manager for Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, Stephanie Cutter, who managed Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, and Nicolle Wallace, former White House Communications Director for President George W. Bush.

But the real thought leadership is coming from advocates in their face-to-face meetings, with nearly all members of the House and Senate this week.

“Legislators have told us that the one-on-one connections advocates make in person matter,” said Jennifer Wagner, NWCUA’s Executive Vice President and Chief Advocacy Officer. “By taking the time to engage in the nation’s capital, advocates are catalysts who are moving the needle on important credit union initiatives that directly improve the lives of 7.3 million consumers who are members of credit unions in the Northwest.”

Ezra Eckhardt, CEO of STCU, and Chris Bradberry, CEO of Fibre Federal Credit Union, present the Washington flag, along with special guest, Ian Fallis, son of Jack Fallis, CEO of Global Credit Union.

Northwest credit union representatives attending CUNA GAC this year are both seasoned advocates and first-timers. Thanks to “Crash the GAC,” an event sponsored by the Cooperative Trust in alliance with CUNA, four young professionals from the Northwest were selected as “crashers.” They include:

  • Esperanza Poblano, CapEd Credit Union, Nampa, Idaho;
  • Shawn Ohki, Unitus Community Credit Union, Portland;
  • Angel Ibarra, BECU, Tukwila, Washington; and
  • Hazelmae Overturf, BECU, Tukwila, Washington.

Northwest advocates will tell the stories of how they serve their members and Main Street through financial education, business loans, and support of community organizations. Advocates have been armed with the just-released Northwest Credit Union Association’s Community Impact Report for each state. Data for the report was collected in NWCUA’s Community Impact Reporting Tool (CIRT), the first-of-its-kind tracking tool in the Credit Union Movement.

Debie Keesee, a leading voice of the Credit Union Movement as we know it today, was inducted into the Credit Union House Hall of Leaders. Keesee is CEO of Spokane Media Federal Credit Union.

“We’re sharing real member examples on the Hill this week,” said Samantha Beeler, NWCUA Vice President, Advocacy. “The dairy farmer who grew her business with a credit union loan, the couple who received a loan to help start their family – these are the members not-for-profit, cooperative credit unions are investing in, and that matters to Congress.”

Advocates also will continue the critical conversation about data privacy and cyber security, Beeler said, and as always, will tell their elected officials how modernizing the Federal Credit Union Act helps keep credit unions competitive, and relevant to members.

Editor’s note: Keep up with Northwest credit unions’ daily advocacy work by subscribing to the Advocacy Blog. Sign up on the NWCUA homepage.

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