Gene’s Farewell Message
As I look back on my 18 years at Rogue Credit Union and my 15 years as your CEO, it is easy to count many blessings! And some blessings come in disguise…like my first job interview at Rogue in 1985. Yes, 1985…a full 18 years before I was hired at Rogue. I interviewed with former President/CEO, Tim Alford and had a great interview, but I didn’t get the job. I wasn’t quite ready for the dedication necessary to serve our members in the Rogue way. I was hired by another credit union and moved to Cottage Grove where I began my credit union journey.
That journey took me to three different credit unions where I worked in roles from branch manager to CEO. Each step on the journey provided me with unique experiences, leadership challenges, and growth opportunities. Just the skills I needed to succeed at Rogue Credit Union. Little did I know during those 18 years, Tim kept his eye on my career progress. He watched how I led team members, how I served members, and my community leadership. As Tim looked towards retirement, and after 18 years of careful consideration, he asked me to return home and join Rogue as his Executive Vice President.
However, I wasn’t out of the woods yet…I spent another three years working directly with Tim to demonstrate my commitment to serving others. As only the third CEO in the history of the credit union, Tim could not turn the reins over to just anyone…he had to know whoever became the next CEO had the same long-term commitment to the members. I earned his trust and the confidence of the board when I became only the fourth leader in the credit union’s history in January of 2007.
As I assumed the role, I became fully aware of the credit union’s duty to our members. Rogue is so much more than a credit union, it is a community catalyst. Our role was tested in the financial crisis as we faced challenge after challenge. However, our board stood tall and invested our reserves in our members when they needed it most. The logical choice would have been to close branches and lay off staff, but our board supported using our reserves to provide staff assurance and to help members through the crisis. While other local banks and credit unions were being merged away, Rogue thrived!
In many ways, the financial crisis was another opportunity, or blessing in disguise, that allowed Rogue to demonstrate that it’s more than a business with products and services –it is a community resource that stands tall when our members need us most. With each challenge or opportunity, we demonstrated that taking care of our members first was always the best strategy. Whether it was the purchase and assumption of Chetco Federal Credit Union, the pandemic, the wildfires, or the recent merger with Malheur Federal Credit Union, by focusing on the members, we proved that by joining together we were blessed and could overcome any obstacle in our path.
After navigating the last 15 years as your CEO, I have been blessed to see the power of teamwork when we dedicate ourselves to a common vision. I have been blessed to watch our members share with their friends and family members why they should join Rogue Credit Union. With nearly 200,000 members, your membership in Rogue has created a powerful force for good in our community. You raised over $1 million for wildfire relief, over the last five years (2017-2021) you have donated over $639,000 to Children’s Miracle Network hospitals through Credit Unions for Kids, and through your membership at Rogue, we have provided community support including investing in Medford’s upcoming Rogue Credit Union Community Complex. I have been blessed to see being a member of Rogue is more than a checking account or a loan…it is truly about being part of something bigger.
As I wrap up my last few days at Rogue, I can look back with great pride on how we have demonstrated our commitment to the community by employing over 600 team members and serving you through 27 branches throughout Oregon and Idaho. While others are closing branches, we are investing in communities from as far west as Port Orford, Oregon and as far East as New Plymouth Idaho. I am also able to look back with pride on our Ownership Account that was introduced in 2016. Through Rogue Rewards, we have shared $12 million in excess earnings with our members, and you have earned over $50 million into your Ownerships Accounts during this time. I am honored to have worked with such dedicated team members and a board of directors that cares deeply about the members we serve. Your board is an incredible collection of very talented leaders that live and work in the communities we serve, and it has been a blessing for me to work for them.
I can now move on to the next chapter of my journey through life knowing we have a member-focused board that has selected the right leader for the right time for Rogue Credit Union. Matt Stephenson was the first person I hired when I joined Rogue 18 years ago. I hired him to help our Information Services team and he took the opportunity and ran with it. When I needed help in Operations, he jumped in and helped. During the great recession, I asked him to step up and serve as our Chief Financial Officer. His leadership through this difficult time is one of the key reasons why Rogue thrived during the recovery. Through all this hard work, Matt earned his place as our Executive Vice President in 2011. For over 10 years in this role, Matt has been a key architect of our success. He has earned the trust of our board and staff. I am proud of his selection as your next CEO knowing he is dedicated to Rogue, our members, and our team members. It seems appropriate that since it took me 18 years to earn my position at Rogue, Matt had to prove himself for 18 years to become only the 5th CEO in Rogue’s 65 years!
My sincere thanks to you, our members, for your dedicated support over the years. Thanks for promoting us to your friends and family, and ultimately thank you for understanding the power of being part of something bigger. I have been blessed by your loyalty to Rogue Credit Union!