A United Front

New CUNA chair knows the value of political advocacy.

February 26, 2013

The importance of advocacy is something that new CUNA Chairman Pat Wesenberg has learned over many years.

During her General Session address Tuesday, Wesenberg said that early in her career, “I wasn’t too focused on political advocacy. I didn’t think it was an important aspect of the job.”

But in time that changed, said Wesenberg, president/CEO of Central City Credit Union in Marshfield, Wis.

She learned the value of connecting with her legislators regularly—not just in Washington, but back at home.

“I don’t look at political involvement as a chore, and I know you wouldn’t be here at the GAC if you didn’t feel the same way,” she said. “Recent experience has shown that as a credit union movement, however, we’ll have to get politically engaged on an even larger scale if we’re going to advance our legislative goals.”

That was a major takeaway from the member business lending fight during the last Congress. “In this divided Congress,” she said, “getting anything passed is difficult, especially when the banks are fighting you every step of the way.

“But policymakers can’t just hear the bankers’ side of the story, or else the bankers will end up defining us. We’ve got to unite, work together, and tell our own story,” she continued. “When we do, we get results.”

The opportunities for credit unions have never been greater, Wesenberg said.

And politically, she added, the stronger and more united our front is, the more likely the banks will be to find common ground on legislation rather than work against us.