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New CUNA Chair: CUs Must Boost Advocacy Efforts
WASHINGTON (2/27/13)--Credit unions are well-known in Washington for their grassroots involvement, and they will need to get politically engaged on even a larger scale if they hope to advance their legislative goals, new Credit Union National Association Chairman Pat Wesenberg said on Tuesday.

Wesenberg, who is also president/CEO of Central City CU in Marshfield, Wis., spoke after she received the ceremonial leadership gavel from exiting CUNA Chairman Mike Mercer at CUNA's 2013 Governmental Affairs Conference here.

Wesenberg, who has been involved with credit unions since she took on a "summer job" at age five, said she has learned the importance of advocacy in her life's work with credit unions.

When she first started working with credit unions as an adult, she was more concerned with day-to-day operations. "But in time, I came to learn that political advocacy is critically important. There's a real value to knowing who your legislators are, and interacting with them on a regular basis, not just in Washington, but back at home," she said.

Despite the intensity of bank attacks on credit union priorities, credit unions can overtake them, she said. She noted that CUNA, the Wisconsin Credit Union League and credit unions in that state pulled together to repel attempted bank attacks on the credit union tax status, and said credit unions and cooperatives can work together and lobby together to achieve shared goals.

"The opportunities for credit unions have never been greater. People today are making a beeline to the personal service, the value, and the sense of trust we offer." These claims are backed up by increased membership and lending numbers, she noted. At the same time, banks "have never been held in such low regard in the public eye," she said.

However, community banks can also work with credit unions and find common ground. "They know we've got enormous public support and trust, and they know how wonderful credit unions can be when we all work together behind a shared political agenda.

"Our moment is now, working together we can advance our political agenda. That is why we're here, and that will be one of my top goals as your new CUNA board chairman," Wesenberg said.

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