CEO Sees Parallels Between School Board And His Credit Union

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LEWISTON, Idaho — The way Chris Loseth sees it, running a school board and a credit union aren't vastly different: both, after all, are deeply concerned with the long-term welfare of their constituents, and both have to find a way to accomplish their respective goals while working with regulations set at the national, state and local levels.

Loseth, the CEO of Potlatch No. 1 FCU here, has been with the CU for the last 22 years and for the last dozen years has also served on the school board for nearby Asotin-Anatone School District in Southeastern Washington.

Loseth noted that "there's a strong corollary between a community-chartered credit union and a local school district; with both you're representing unique communities, and you do what you do to better both of those communities."

One of the most difficult things about holding elected office, he said, is "taking the time to understand how another system works that's different from your credit union system," including learning state, federal and local laws "as they apply to different entities, and understanding the concepts and challenges of that entity's operational structure."

Challenging as those demands may be, Loseth speaks highly of the opportunity to serve, and said that many more in the CU community can play their part in not only advancing their community's welfare, but helping the CU movement, too.

"What credit unions can do is identify candidates that are members of credit unions, or are sympathetic to credit unions if they're not a member," he said. "I think that credit unions can find candidates that support the credit union system, and I think that's the main thing." He added that "It's just really important that credit unions let their legislators or potential legislators understand what credit unions are doing for the people they'll be serving as their constituents, and bring in the knowledge to their current or potential legislators of just what exactly credit unions can provide for the public."

With two kids completely through the school system and another a freshman in high school, Loseth said that he expected he would probably go one term beyond his youngest's graduation, for a total of 16 years, before choosing not to run for re-election.

It's not a job one seeks if seeking to gain higher office, although Loseth is not ruling it out. "You don't get on a school board to further your own political career." Loseth said that once he's done on the school board, "I think my first responsibility is to the credit union."

"Maybe upon retirement, with the knowledge I have from the credit union system and being chairman of the school board and understanding state and federal laws, maybe the future will hold political office once I'm done taking care of my 50,000 members," he continued.

Advocating For CUs

In the meantime, Loseth has been able to use his association with both the CU community and the school board to do a fair amount of advocating for the credit union movement. The CU is a partner in education for the district, donates its time for local DECCA clubs and future business leaders of America, teaches financial literacy classes and also works with colleges in both Washington and Idaho.

"I think that if you're not involved, then you're not doing your part socially, and you're not doing your part as part of the greater good to make sure things can be as strong as they can be," said Loseth. "If you have some unique talents, whatever they may be, I think you need to share those talents where they're most needed. That's what I've done with the school board, with the financial side of life, with the managerial side of life. And all of the things that come with running a large credit union are helpful for a district that…has the same type of managerial needs."

Loseth said that he's a big proponent of meeting with legislators, particularly because it's a way to make sure that the credit union movement's views are heard on important issues. Beyond that, he encourages people to take advantage of different ways to contact legislators, including CUNA's CapWiz web site and writing letters when the Fed asks for public input.

"We have to be involved and not let the system control us," Loseth said.

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