It’s not my problem…

Last month I got elected to the Town Assembly of Cochiti Lake, New Mexico. I never dreamed I would get involved in politics. In fact, I hate politics. So what compelled me to run? I care about this little town and in the 10 years I’ve owned a home here have watched it slowly decline.

Cochiti Lake has the distinction of being the only town of its kind in all of the United States.

It was a new concept, unprecedented anywhere in Indian Country – a private investment for development of a town on reservation land, with its own government. The residents would agree to a 99-year land lease that began in the late 1970’s. Although the original plan was for a population of 40,000, the company that was hired to develop it went bankrupt and the “project” was discontinued with the Town of Cochiti Lake having a population around 500 people.

We live 30 miles from the nearest grocery store (Santa Fe) but we have a gas station, golf course, library, Volunteer FIRE/EMS, a campground, lake and abundant hiking trails. The nickname is “Heaven with a Zip Code.” But it has stopped looking so heavenly.

The town was built to be a “retirement community” consequently the average age of a resident is around 60. No one will likely ever say they were born and raised in Cochiti Lake. And therein lies the problem. As we are now on the backside of the 99-year lease and many residents are retired and seeing their own end of the road, many have stopped caring. The Town Hall is crumbling, the Community Garden neglected and of course, no one wants to raise the town tax to pay for improvements. That’s why I’m volunteering some time to convince the residents that there is a future here and we owe it to the next residents to keep this a wonderful place to live. It’s going to mean some cooperation and collaboration.

Credit unions are 108 years into their story and I’m seeing an eerily similar situation. There’s an inordinate amount of CEOs retiring in the next 5 years and I see many that have stopped caring. They are not grooming the next generation to take over, but rather merging their credit unions and in some cases getting very large retirement payouts as a reward for merging.

I began working full time with NACUSO one year ago and in that time have met the “cool kids.” The credit union CEOs with a cooperative heart and a great business mind. There is no better combination in my opinion. Rather than trying to be all things to all people, CUSO contributors get that there is power in collaboration. You can act like a big credit union without the expense or operational headaches. You can gain economies of scale without going through the disruption of a merger.

This year at the NACUSO Network Conference we honored some of the best examples of Innovation and Collaboration.

The winner of the CU of the Year Collaboration & Innovation Award were two credit unions, who despite being competitors located just a mile from each other in the same market, serving the same membership, decided to collaborate for the benefit of all of their members, and are delivering exceptional value to their members … the two credit unions are ORNL FCU and Y-12 FCU.  

The winner of the CU of the Year Leading Edge Innovation Award was recognized for investing in and leading innovation for their members and the industry – Denali FCU has been a true leader in developing innovative new CUSO collaborations that not only benefit their members but the entire industry, through such collaborative innovation as OnApproach and Deep Future Analytics.

And finally $30 million Element Federal Credit Union, Charleston, W.Va., received the 2017 Credit Union of the Year CUSO Leverage Award for setting the bar on how to use CUSO collaborations to lower costs; provide expanded products and services it would be difficult for the CU to provide on its own; and create value for members through collaboration. CEO and Chief Innovator Linda Bodie uses 7 CUSOs and in our spotlight interview earlier this year said,

“You can’t look at running a credit union like it’s 1980. Small credit unions could kick some serious butt with a new model. Consolidate all the back office, compliance and other standard business functions. Allow a centralized management team to oversee multiple credit unions. You’ll have the expertise, the uniqueness, the pooling of resources, the fun and everything you need to serve your members and to serve them in a very custom way. Today, there is no reason for any credit union to merge if they don’t want to merge.”

When I was “campaigning” to be on the assembly, we had one Town Hall “meet the candidates” event. I had to give a speech and my closing remark was “You know how you never wash a rental car? I think many residents look at this town as a rental car. But it’s sacred land and we are honored guests and I for one am going to continue to work hard to restore “Heaven with a Zip Code” as the mantra for the town I am proud to call my home.

Credit unions have been “my work family” for 37 years now, and I’m proud at this stage in my career to work alongside the folks at NACUSO.

Credit unions and the Town of Cochiti Lake are not going down on my watch.

Denise Wymore

Denise Wymore

Denise started her credit union career over 30 years ago as a Teller for Pacific NW Federal Credit Union in Portland, Oregon. She moved up and around the org. chart ... Web: Details

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