ST. PAUL, Minn. (9/5/08)--The cost is too high for credit unions not to be involved in the local, state and national political scenes, according to credit union CEOs who attended the Republican National Convention in the Twin Cities this week.
“We’ve seen all too clearly 10 years ago how being not involved can costs credit unions dearly,” said Harry Carter, president/CEO of Topline FCU in Maple Grove, Minn., in referring to the landmark legislative effort to pass H.R. 1151, the Credit Union Membership Access Act. Carter, who also is board chairman of the Minnesota Credit Union Network, urged credit unions to never let history repeat itself. “Ten years ago, we got caught flat-footed, but we’ve learned,” he said, pointing out that credit unions have strengthened both CUNA and their league’s political muscle. “If you’re going to master the strength of your industry, you must always be heard by those who make the laws.”
Jeff Schwalen, president/CEO of Hiway FCU in St. Paul agreed with Carter. “You must be involved in the process or accept what people put on you,” said Schwalen, who chairs the Minnesota Credit Union Network’s Political Involvement Committee. While delegates to each party convention are bombarded with messages, the two CEOs said credit unions’ non-partisan nature is an advantage. They said the Homes for Our Troops project at both conventions was a perfect way to send a message. “The project was a way to demonstrate how credit unions give back to their communities and leave lasting commitments,” said Schwalen. Wounded Iraqi war veteran Sgt. Marcus Kuboy, who received the Minnesota Homes for Our Troops house, joined Hiway FCU after embarking on the project with credit unions. Both CEOs say they enjoy representing credit unions in the political process. “I think it’s valuable, fun and rewarding,” said Carter. “I’ve met so many interesting people.”