A Weary Earl Explains Reasons For Leaving

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A battle-weary Scott Earl has hung up his credit union sword in the belief that the Utah League of Credit Unions needed a change in leadership just as much as he needed a change in his life.

"I needed a change. I am worn out. The continuous battles with the banks has taken a toll on me and my family, and I did not see a light at the end of the tunnel," Earl told The Credit Union Journal, which was first to report his departure (CU Journal, Dec. 1). "I used to love going to the office. Come Monday morning, I couldn't wait to get back to the office. But in the last three or four years, the job had lost much of the fun for me."

Utah has been on the front lines of the credit union/bank battles. A vice president at powerful Zion's Bank is Speaker of the House in Utah, and the Utah Bankers Association is heavily influential. A successful effort to place new taxes upon Utah's largest credit unions led nearly a half-dozen to switch to federal charters.

Earl emphasized the issues driving his decision were primarily external-aggressive attacks by Utah's bankers-and was not the result of differences with the ULCU board.

"There no unfair pressure at all, and this was a mutual agreement," he related. "We went through a period where we lost a few key credit unions to disaffiliation, and that was key to my decision to leave, it was not key to the board. Those credit unions may have felt like the league needed new leadership, and eventually, I came to agree with them."

In fact, although Earl's departure came as a surprise to much of the CU movement and seemed precipitous, if anything, Earl said he believes he should have left sooner. "I probably should have done this a couple of years ago, but I kept hoping that things would change. At first, I thought it was just me. I kept thinking that if we could just get through this quagmire with the banks, then things would be better," he said. "But the truth of the matter is, I think this is going to be a continual war for a long time to come. I just didn't see a light at the end of the tunnel."

Capable Hands

And it's not as though the league isn't in perfectly good condition to battle on without its leader of 22 years, he suggested.

"We hired Scott Simpson as vice president of government relations, and I have great confidence in him. We just passed a new dues structure, so the league is in good financial shape," he offered. "I'll be in and out of the league over the next few weeks, but mostly, I'm just trying to stay out of [interim president] Lynn Kuehne's way so that she can lead without interference, and I believe I leave the league in good hands."

Even so, Earl has some advice for those who will continue the fight without him. "I think it still boils down to what Edward Filene said: 'Keep purpose constant.' Do not be dragged down into that dark abyss that banks would have you drown in," he counseled. "As league staff, you have to stay focused on the needs of credit unions, no matter what's going on, particularly the legislative pressure.

"One of the things that frightens me about this continuing battle is that while credit unions are busy punching it out with the banks, we'll be left behind as dinosaurs. And frankly, the banks are vulnerable to that, too. They're missing the boat by focusingso much on us."

In a time when it's far more common to see a resume filled with multiple jobs at a variety of organizations, Earl's is almost entirely shaped by his experience with the league, having started there 22 years ago, right out of college.

"My greatest fear right now is that my car won't know where else to go," he quipped. "Not having been in the job market for a very long time, this is sort of a disconcerting experience, and I probably should have been putting myself out there before now. I have no idea where I will land. I hope it will be within the credit union movement, but I'm not limiting myself to that."

Don't Look For Candidate Earl

There is one job Earl said he has no interest in even if it would be of help to credit unions-state legislator. "For as difficult as it's been to work with lawmakers over the years, I can't imagine being one," he laughed.

Earl has already gone on a couple of job interviews-something else he hasn't done in a very long time-and is grateful that the league board provided a generous severance that will allow him some time to take stock of his past experience and his new future.

"Twenty-two years ago I feel in love with the credit union movement, with the people-helping-people philosophy and the commitment to making a difference," Earl said. "This has always been much more than a job to me, because I really do believe that credit unions help people, and I was proud to be a part of that."

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