Volunteer Involved In Politics At (Very) Grassroots Level

Register now

What do an auctioneer, a credit union volunteer, a state legislator, and a real estate appraiser have in common?

In this particular instance, they are all trades that Wally Myers has dabbled in at one time or another, and that's just the short list. He also has been in the military, campaigned for legislators, and enjoyed a long-time career with John Morrell Co.

"I believe in education. What you don't know really hurts you the most, so I always try of stay up on things," he said.

For the past 27 years Myers has served on the board of directors of the $100-million Service First FCU in Sioux Falls, S.D. Myers also is involved in his local credit union chapter. His life experiences in so many diverse fields have made him a strong ally to his credit union and to the credit union community, especially in the political arena. Between serving in the state House of Representatives for one term and getting countless people elected to office, Myers has the benefit of understanding the democratic process from both sides of the table. In fact, he's a very good example of how politics can work to the advantage of someone who starts at the very grassroots level.

When Myers served his term as a state representative, he didn't have to run for election. He was appointed by the South Dakota governor to fill a vacancy. The governor was aware of his ability to serve, because he had appointed Myers to several committees. Myers got appointed to those committees because he worked on the campaign that helped get the governor elected.

"I've walked precincts, given people a ride to the polls, worked on campaigns. I developed a career amongst three or four people, and several that I campaigned for were there a long time," he said.

Staying involved is the key ingredient to getting the attention of legislators, according to Myers, who believes in leading by example. He still works on campaigns to get officials elected who are supportive of credit unions. He serves on the governor's workforce development committee and the governor's investment council. He makes several trips a year to visit legislators in his state capital and in Washington, D.C., and when he talks to them, he delivers the same message over and over again.

"I find that there are some who don't understand the credit union philosophy. It's our job to communicate that to them so they do understand it. I believe in the philosophy of credit unions. I believe it's easy to see that credit unions are the right way to go. That's what legislators want to see," he said. "Of course, any time you can be on a first-name basis with a legislator, that helps."

That also requires being involved. To help members become more familiar with their legislators, Myers' credit union hosts "legislature night." They invite representatives from both political parties in to tell members who they are and what they are about. Members, in turn, have the opportunity to ask questions of their legislators. Myers hopes this will encourage more people to get involved with the issues that affect them and their communities.

The Hard Choice: Freedom

"People enjoy freedom, but they want to let somebody else do the work. It takes a lot to keep this country free. Choosing freedom may be more involved than people realize," he said.

Myers views life as a learning experience and believes everybody's opportunities for growth lie within them. When he first started getting involved in political activities, he had just come out of the military. His interest in politics was piqued during various political rallies, and he started campaigning for people. As he dabbled in one trade here and another hobby there, he began establishing a strong network of people.

"Anyone can do it, " he said. "Just volunteer, and you're there."

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.