It's challenging for CEOs at small credit unions to be fully involved in advocacy given the demands of their job and, frequently, limited resources.
Maria Martinez, president/CEO of $145 million asset Border Federal Credit Union in Del Rio, Texas, has developed a management model that allows her to cultivate the relationships advocacy requires.
She says a combination of delegation and board support gives her the freedom to make commitments outside the office to participate in credit union advocacy events and tell the credit union story to lawmakers.
“I couldn’t do this without my staff,” she says. “You need to have good people, and I do.
“On another level, they understand I’m out there fighting for their jobs,” she continues. “I make that clear to them. We’re a low-income credit union. What we do here makes a difference in the community. They understand that.”
She also appreciates her board’s full support. “I’m one of those lucky CEOs: my board supports me,” Martinez says. “They don’t micromanage me. They don’t rubber stamp everything, but they see the results and they know I don’t need to be micromanaged to do my job.”
Martinez works closely with advocacy groups on the state, regional, and national levels. She says she’s also fortunate to work in a small community.
“Everybody knows everybody here, and there aren’t a lot of jobs in leadership positions like mine,” she says. “So when lawmakers come to town I have more of an opportunity to meet with them than I might if I lived in a smaller town.”
She also works directly with lawmakers and has invited representatives for in-district visits.
“They also appreciate it when we visit them in Washington,” she says. “I had one representative tell me, ‘I love when credit union people visit because they come in big groups.'"