Sandy Lingerfelt: No Time To Loaf Around

July 1, 2005

Sandy Lingerfelt: No Time To Loaf Around

WHO: Sandy Lingerfelt

WHAT: President/CEO

WHERE: Clinchfield FCU, Erwin, Tenn.

Why I'm involved beyond my credit union:

I believe that what we do is so important to our members that we should do everything in our power to ensure that what we've learned is passed on to the younger generations. I also feel so very blessed to work in a job that I truly love that I want to give back and be as involved as I can be. One thing that makes us unique as an industry is that we work together and that anyone can participate on a state or national level.

My first plane trip was to CUNA's Governmental Affairs Conference

(GAC) during Operation Grassroots. I haven't missed a GAC since. I was so proud to be part of the group lobbying for what we believed in and so impressed that each one of us had a voice that counted. I haven't missed an opportunity since then to stand up for credit unions.

Our most unique 2005 loan promotion:

We just finished with our $100 gas card promotion, 'Now You Can Afford the Gas.' We had a real gas pump in the lobby. We decorated it with Christmas lights, hearts for Valentine's Day, and shamrock lights for St. Patrick's Day. The members loved it. One told us it's always an adventure to come to the credit union.

The gas pump came from my brother. He delivered it on the condition that I couldn't return it to him.

Our biggest lending challenge:

We concentrate on each member's financial picture every time they apply for a loan and see if we can make it better. A lot of our loans come from that process. We try to visit our select employee groups (SEGs) every couple of years. We visit every shift at their convenience and sit down with anyone we can. Some of my best conversations with members have been at 3 a.m. in the break room--on members' turf where they're comfortable asking questions and listening to advice.

If anything, I'd love to have more time to talk to members and listen to what they want.


What I like most and least about our office:

We moved into our building in 1997. Our board spent a lot of time planning and researching and it has paid off tremendously. We have only found one thing that we'd like to change about the whole building--the cold air return over the drive-thru!

Erwin is a small railroad community and most everyone either works for the railroad or has family or friends who have worked for the railroad. Our charter originally was Clinchfield Railroad Employees. When I started 29 years ago, our credit union was in the old depot in two small corner offices.

So we built our building to look like an old railroad depot. The brick is 'Old Nashville' and looks very old. We have a railroad crossing and red lights that we turn on when we're open. The railroaders put it together for us and change the lights when they go out. Inside we have a train that runs around the top of the lobby and through a tunnel. We also have rocking chairs and a fireplace in the lobby.

We designed the building so almost all employees face the lobby and the members can see just about all of us. This is good security but also adds to the building's warmth. People tell us all of the time that it's the most beautiful building in the county, and lots of members bring their friends in to see it.

How I connect with people:

I make them homemade sourdough bread.

And if I really like them, I make the cinnamon swirl with icing. I use my bread for gift baskets, door prizes, and just for fun. When we visit our SEGs I try to take a tray of cinnamon rolls.

It's amazing how long they let you talk when you feed them! When our chapter has legislative appreciation night, I bake for the legislators. This year, one legislator told me he had just finished singing at his aunt's funeral and left to go to a meeting and get his bread!

When one of my daughters was in high school, her home economics teacher let me teach a class on 'You can make homemade bread and have a career, also!' I went through each stage of making the bread (it takes two days and has to rise twice) and then talked about their financial future. Of course, I had their complete attention since they had a cinnamon roll in one hand and a glass of milk in the other.


It's also tradition when I travel with other CEOs in the area, as well as my staff, to take each of them a small loaf of the cinnamon bread.

Required reading for CU executives:

Anything and everything. I go to two libraries and will have two or three books started at a time. I like motivational books but I also like to read for fun. I love 'how-to' books, and I collect cookbooks.

I also read all of the trade publications so I can keep up with my friends across the country and see what other credit unions are doing--and maybe pick up a few ideas to help my members.

Perfect day off:

I love to be on my back porch reading, in the yard working in the flowers, in the pool doing water aerobics, or working on one of the many craft projects I have started. I weave baskets, I'm taking a stained-glass class, and a one-stroke painting course. After a morning of back porch/back yard activity I'd get my four-year-old perfect grandson, Jacob, and do whatever he wanted. He loves Scooby Doo so we read a lot of Scooby Doo books and watch Scooby Doo movies. He calls me 'GranSan' and just melts my heart!