Throughout her 35 years at America First Federal Credit Union in Riverdale, Utah, Sheryl Cox has fought hard to protect credit unions from harmful legislation.
Cox, vice president of governmental affairs at the $8.8 billion asset credit union, became politically active in high school. “It is a fascinating science that hooked me at a young age,” she says.
Today, that interest translates into lobbying legislators regarding credit union regulations and taxation, running ad campaigns to raise awareness of legislation affecting credit unions, and engaging credit union members in political outreach.
Cox first became politically involved in the credit union space while serving as marketing director at America First Federal. At the time, the credit union was waging a fierce battle with bankers to prevent state taxation and protect the credit union’s field of membership.
In that initial foray into credit union politics, Cox worked with Utah state legislators as well as federal representatives to educate them on the difference between banks and credit unions.
She emphasized credit unions are not-for-profits and are exempt from federal taxes, a status the banking industry strongly opposes. In Utah, credit unions also are exempt from most state taxes and Utah credit unions frequently face pro-bank legislation at the state level.
Years later, the battles are far from over. “Credit unions, unfortunately, still face the same threats they have for many years,” Cox says. “We continue to be concerned about taxation, data security, limitations on business lending, and data breaches.”
To create momentum on the credit union side, Cox formed a member advocate group to inform interested members about possible legislative threats to credit unions. Now, more than 37,000 member advocates use that information to send letters, make phone calls, and meet with their representatives to share their concerns.
“One of every two Utah citizens belongs to one or more credit unions in the state,” she explains. “They were eager to help, so we engaged them.”
Cox—a CUNA Management School graduate—is actively involved with local military groups, including the Utah National Guard and the Hill Air Force Base. During her tenure, she has secured several thousands of dollars to bolster quality of life for service members at the base.