Cheney Outlines Plans As He Succeeds Chatfield In Calif.

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The first two weeks as president and CEO of the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues has been a whirlwind for Bill Cheney. Not only is the job one of the most watched and influential in the CU movement, Cheney is taking over from a 40-year veteran who has had a huge effect on the state, national and international level, Dave Chatfield.

Cheney took a brief time out to sit down with The Credit Union Journal to discuss the many changes in his life since he was named Chatfield's successor in December.

CUJ: When people come up to you to say "Hi," what do they say next? What do they want from you?

Cheney: Everyone was been pretty positive so far. It helps that Dave and I have been working together for several months. At midnight on the night of Feb. 28 and March 1 [Cheney's official first day as president/CEO], we were in Washington, D.C., for the GAC. Dave and I got together with some friends and board members in a hotel room for a ceremonial passing of the torch.

Many people have questions for me: What are you going to be working on? What is your first priority? I tell them my first priority is to continue to build grassroots support for credit unions. Banks have become a lot more effective at involving their employees. They do it by edict -they tell their employees to contact their Congressional representatives-but they still are voters.

I want to get people to understand what credit unions are and what they do. We need to let members know the end game - banks don't want to tax credit unions, they want to eliminate them. We need to get that idea to the policymakers.

There are other things besides advocacy that are important to me. One of the biggest is educating the next generation of credit union leadership.

CUJ: This week at the leagues' Big Valley conference, there was a special dinner honoring Chatfield for his career. Many of the speakers mentioned Chatfield seemingly never sleeps-how will you keep up Chatfield's schedule?

Cheney: When you are working on something you are passionate about, you find time to rest, even if not on what people call a "normal" schedule. I'm not worried about that.

CUJ: What is the most difficult issue you face in your new position?

Cheney: Nothing is particularly a "difficult" issue. The biggest challenge is picking up where Dave left off. Certainly there will be difficult days for various reasons. Another challenge is keeping everybody together. There are all different kinds of credit unions: large and small, single-sponsor and community.

CUJ: You came from Xerox FCU, a large CU. How will you let the smaller credit unions in California and Nevada know you will represent them, as well?

Cheney: I already have started working with the smaller credit unions. I've spoken to many of them. The league has a terrific program for smaller credit unions, the Shapiro Group.

I am committed to the support of smaller credit unions and the ways all credit unions can work for the greater good. I have been in credit unions for 20 years, though never at a "small" credit union, but I understand the challenges they face to remain viable, strong institutions.

CUJ: Is there any agenda item or issue you want to push to the top?

Cheney: As I mentioned, educating future credit union leaders is very important to me. It is something the league has initiated with youth involvement groups, but it needs to be examined further.

It is not just how someone manages a credit union, it is how to transfer the passion someone like Dave Chatfield is taking out of the movement.

CUJ: Dave Chatfield was active in many other organizations, including the World Council of Credit Unions. After you get settled in, do you see yourself following a similar path?

Cheney: I am sure that will happen. When I was named president and CEO, I had to get off a couple of boards. Dave's passion was world credit union development, and I share that passion. While at Xerox, I was very active in the leagues' partnership with Caja Popular Mexicana [one of the largest credit unions in Mexico]. I was on the committee, and Xerox supported Caja Popular Mexicana's data processing efforts. I have maintained relationships with people at Caja Popular Mexicana.

Dave was active nationally and internationally. As CEO of the California League, plus my own interest, I'm sure I'll keep that going. I'm also on the Red Cross board in Los Angeles...in my spare time (laughing).

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