Goodbye to a good friend
At the conclusion of Thursday’s NCUA Board Meeting, Board Member McWatters offered his final comments as his term has come to an end and his successor has been nominated and scheduled for a confirmation vote on Aug. 5.
The end of McWatters’ term offers an opportunity to reflect on the time that he spent at NCUA, from the early days as a board member with Ms. Matz as Chair, through his days working with Rick Metsger as a Board Member and Chairman, and finally during his recent days working with new Chairman Hood.
I remember the first time that I met Mark McWatters. He was a very new Board Member and he came to Boston to address a group of credit union CEOs from MA, NH and RI. He stood in front of our group with his trademark yellow legal pad and red pen. After some brief introductory comments, he stated that he was there not to speak to us but to listen to us. He went on to say that we were the experts in running credit unions and that although he knew quite a bit about business and especially the legal aspects thereof, he was a novice in our business. This approach guided McWatters throughout his tenure at the agency and in my opinion makes him a model for future NCUA Board members to follow.
The industry will look back on the McWatters years, especially those during which he was Chairman with gratitude. While he clearly understood his responsibility for the soundness of credit unions and the protection of the insurance fund, he always looked for ways to improve the operating environment for credit unions and to provide us with any competitive advantage that he could.
I would be remiss if I were to omit Rick Metsger from these comments. While coming from different political affiliations, different parts of the country and very different personal backgrounds, Rick and Mark found a way to work together for the common good. In a time when democrats and republicans in Washington have a hard time agreeing on anything, McWatters and Metsger and their respective teams found common ground and operated under the mantra of “the best idea will win”. This collaboration brought us changes in FOM, a dividend from the share insurance fund at a time when we could easily have been looking at a premium, a streamlined agency with two fewer offices, a commitment to examination flexibility and investment in IT infrastructure that will pay significant future dividends.
In his parting statements, McWatters offered advice regarding bipartisan collaboration, showing respect for differences and being willing to compromise in the interest of the greater good. These words mean more in our current world than ever before. They can serve to guide future NCUA Board Members but can also serve to guide all of us and certainly our elected leaders. Mark McWatters came to a meeting in Boston six years ago and asked us to teach him. As we bid him farewell and wish him health and happiness, we realize that over the past six years he has taught us a great deal. Thank you J. Mark McWatters, it has been a great run.