The Dangers Of Not Being Involved In Politics

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REXBURG, Idaho — Credit unions need to watch their backs or risk losing their advamtages, according to Kimber Ricks, who believes credit unions should become even more involved in politics.

Ricks is board chairman of Beehive FCU here, and also commissioner for Madison County. Jon Weber serves on the Beehive FCU board, and is a fellow Madison County Commissioner (see related story).

Credit Union Journal: Politics has become a more volatile arena. How do you answer when asked, "What is life like in politics?"
Ricks: The volatility you refer to is, for the most part, evident in national and international politics. I am involved in local politics as a county commissioner and am involved at the state level in Republican Party politics. At these levels the animosity is not usually present. In county politics we are involved with helping and building: road building and maintenance, motor vehicle licensing, driver's licenses and similar efforts. Of course, we also collect property taxes, enforce laws, help manage the court system and staff, and finance the juvenile and adult probation programs. These things are not always popular, but most people understand they are necessary.

CUJ: How did you get involved?
Ricks: I have always been interested and have always tried to support good candidates. I've been involved in Republican Party politics and campaigns since I was in my early 20s, and I am now 72. A few years ago, about the time I retired, there was a situation in our local community that I felt was simply wrong. I tried unsuccessfully to find a candidate to oppose the incumbent and ended up being the candidate myself. I have served for four years and have two more to go in my current term. It has been very rewarding.

CUJ: Is there a particular issue or set of issues you are championing?
Ricks: The economy has forced us to focus on seeking more efficient ways to do business. It has been very satisfying to find ways to save the people's money. Our county fairgrounds is landlocked and we are currently seeking to find a way to plan and develop for the future. We are also planning for future roads and another park.

CUJ: Why has politics become less civil?
Ricks: I think the Internet and social media allow people to be faceless and, therefore, not accountable. People can attack without disclosing an identity. People are also less patient; the so-called instant gratification syndrome. I believe these factors contribute to a decrease in civility.

CUJ: Many people say it is just not worth getting involved. Do you ever find yourself thinking that? Why get involved?
Ricks: No! People should get involved. First, it is not that difficult to write a letter or make a phone call. If the contact is civil and reasonable, most elected officials welcome the contact and the information you can add to their knowledge of an issue. Since most people do not get involved, the few who do are truly influential.

CUJ: What is the most difficult part of holding office?
Ricks: There is not much on the down side, other than perhaps the occasional unfounded rumor.

CUJ: What is there about politics and holding office that you think many people don't know or understand?
Ricks: All of it! Most people take no interest and do not have a clue.

CUJ: Where do credit unions fit in politics? Are they understood?
Ricks: Credit unions are loved, but not understood. CUs must work constantly both with the general public and with elected officials to protect our world of financial cooperatives. If we are not diligent we could lose our advantages.

CUJ: What is your general view of Congress and national politics?
Ricks: Don't get me started. We have created an elitist ruling class with power, pay and perks far beyond reason. I would support huge changes in how we staff, manage and pay all three branches of government.

CUJ: How much of a time commitment does your office require? What does it pay?
Ricks: My position is classified as part-time. It and pays about $27,000 annually. We meet as a board of commissioners two or three days each month and each of us supervise different departments and represent the county on a variety of committees and boards. I spend about 40 hours per week.

CUJ: Anything you want to add?
Ricks: I could write a book that would likely go unread.

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