Committee Sifting Through 300 Resumes As It Looks To Replace Chatfield

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The search continues for a successor to David Chatfield, the president of the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues, who will be retiring April 1, 2006.

Diana Dykstra, who is leading the Chatfield search committee in addition to her duties as CEO of San Francisco Fire CU and chairman of the California CU League, told The Credit Union Journal the process of replacing a legend is tough, but "it's just the next page in a history book."

"We have received more than 300 resumes and inquiries, which is a pretty big response," she said. "The search committee will be meeting at the California League convention [this] week to discuss the top candidates and decide who we will interview."

Dykstra said she expects 10 to 15 viable candidates to emerge from these discussions.

Chatfield has been president of the California CU League since March 1991, and added leadership of the Nevada League in 1996. According to Dykstra, the search committee has developed a list of 15 attributes the next president should have. She said no one quality on the list is considered the most critical.

"Having an understanding of and a passion for the credit union movement are particularly important, so credit union experience is a factor. But, advocacy also is important, so political savvy will be considered. The business of serving member credit unions through services and products means the job is multi-faceted."

"We recognize no one person will have all 15 attributes," she continued. "Perhaps someone will have a piece of all 15. We might see a candidate with 10 to 15 years experience as a top credit union CEO, but with very little political experience. Maybe there is someone with strong political acumen, but only three years' experience with credit unions."

The search committee remains on track to name Chatfield's replacement by Jan. 1, said Dykstra. In addition to Dykstra, the search committee members are Al George, North Island Financial CU; Jon Hernandez, South Bay Health Services FCU; Barry Jolette, San Mateo CU; Frank Michael, Allied CU; Tony Mook, Cumorah CU; and Vince Rojas, Kern Schools FCU.

Several CEOs from California credit unions weighed in with their opinions on what qualities they would like the new league president and CEO to have. Rudy Hanley, CEO of Orange County Teachers Federal Credit Union spoke for many when he said: "another Dave Chatfield would be nice."

"Chatfield was a legend. It was very hard to follow Bill Broxterman [the California League's president from 1974-1989], but he did and he had quite a long tenure. He left some big shoes to fill."

According to Hanley, leadership and vision are the two most important qualities. He said leadership includes being able to do creative things and get support from CUs, as well as communications skills and human relations skills.

"We all know we have different styles and opinions and it is difficult to get us united and going in the same direction. Chatfield was able to do that, and there is no other way to describe it but leadership," he assessed. "He also had vision, which means he was able to identify what the critical issues were and where we needed to go and prioritize properly."

Hanley said the position is "a big job and an attractive position, but it will take someone big to lead it. California's credit unions are not easy to lead. Take the public advocacy campaign Chatfield was able to put in. If you talk to 10 California credit union CEOs, you'll get 12 opinions on the best way to go."

Grace Mayo, CEO of Telesis Community CU, headquartered in Chatsworth, said the key for the successor is a "continuation of the foundation Dave Chatfield built for our league."

"The person needs understanding, a drive for collaborative efforts and leadership," Mayo said. "He or she must be proactive in all governmental arenas. There needs to be continued support for all our credit unions-not just those in California and Nevada. The credit unions in California are so important to the entire movement, the new person needs to be aware of that and be an incredible communicator."

Jim McPheters, CEO of San Diego-based California Coast CU and incoming chairman of the league, said "You don't replace a legend; you start over with a new leader and a different vision."

While McPheters declined to identify the qualities he would recommend for a new league president, he had no doubts about the biggest challenges that person will face beginning next year: "The continued attacks by the bankers and how we will deal with that. Also, continuing the public advocacy campaign in California and Nevada."

Stan Hollen, CEO of Ontario, Calif.-based Co-Op Network, was chairman of WesCorp in the late 1980s and was part of the committee that hired Chatfield after the "difficult times" surrounding the short-term of CCUL CEO Chris Stewart.

"The California marketplace is unique," assessed Hollen. "There are a lot of large credit unions and sophisticated credit unions, and there are diverse credit unions. The most important thing for the new president and CEO is someone who will hit the ground running and not have a long learning curve. Having someone who understands the credit union system is particularly important in California.

"Dave was able to rally everyone to support the league and its causes," he continued. "He led the revitalization of the league, from its structure to its voting procedures. In the last two years, he was instrumental in putting in a statewide marketing program."

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