Bill Merrick

Heroes and Rock Stars

These Credit Union Heroes will leave you moved, inspired—possibly verklempt.

March 1, 2021

One of our favorite projects each year is selecting and honoring Credit Union Heroes—those typically unsung credit union leaders who eclipse the rest of us in how they embrace and demonstrate credit union philosophy and community service.

Our readers nominate their peers for this accolade and ultimately select the Credit Union Hero of the Year, sponsored by Symitar, via online voting. Their profiles will leave you inspired, moved—possibly verklempt.

This year’s Credit Union Heroes:

▶ Cheryl Deborde, president/CEO at Members Choice Credit Union in Ashland, Ky., who credits her parents with instilling in her a sense of service to others.

▶ Nick Kessenich, retired president at Members First Credit Union in Madison, Wis. He led the transition from an organization run out of a briefcase into a community-based credit union that serves more than 3,000 members.

▶ Bill Lawton, president/CEO at Community Financial Credit Union in Plymouth, Mich. He provides member-facing employees with “gratitude pay”—an extra $50 per day worked—during the pandemic to remind staff how much the credit union values them.

▶ Val Mindak, president/CEO at Park City Credit Union in Merrill, Wis., who encourages staff to conduct random acts of kindness in the community.

We encourage you to read their profiles and vote for the Credit Union Hero of the Year at

While you’re at it, think about your creative, talented, and innovative colleagues who excel at what they do and who make the credit union movement a brighter, more interesting place.

We’ll soon be accepting nominations for our annual Credit Union Rock Star program, sponsored by Fiserv, at

Speaking of rock stars, you’ll notice a familiar face is absent from this page. After 30 years at CUNA, Editor-in-Chief Ann Peterson shelved her AP Stylebook and tucked away her red editor’s pen to retire. We wish her well.

BILL MERRICK is deputy editor for Credit Union National Association.

This article appeared in the Spring 2021 issue of Credit Union Magazine. Subscribe here.