Mica Reflects On His 14-Year Tenure At CUNA

WASHINGTON-The first CEO of CUNA ever to retire before the board could fire him has vowed not to go riding off into the sunset.

"I am riding off into the sunrise, not the sunset," Dan Mica told Credit Union Journal just before his final day as CUNA president. "I will always be a supporter of credit unions, and I hope some of my better contributions are still yet to come."

Indeed, while some CEOs make their final days something a victory lap where little has to be done, Mica found the credit union movement was keeping him busy right up until the very last moments of his time on the CUNA clock. Fighting the Durbin amendment reforming interchange that was tacked onto the Wall Street reform bill and lobbying for an increase in the member business loan cap were on the agenda right up to the end.

No wonder, then, that although he has a host of opportunities for his future, Mica has decided to take some time off before diving into his next challenge. "I really have decided to hold off on any final decision on what to do next," he related. "I'll make a decision after about a month of rest."

Among the options Mica is exploring: there's a D.C. law firm that is interested in hiring the former member of Congress, there are several groups interested in hiring him as an advocate and spokesperson to do for them what he has done for CUNA, and he's also considering starting his own consultancy.

In addition, Mica said there are a number of boards both within and outside of the credit union movement that have shown interest in having him, as well.

One More Appearance
Though his official final day as CUNA CEO was Friday, July 2, Mica will be consulting with CUNA for the balance of the year and will be on hand at The 1 CU Conference this week in Las Vegas.

Mica came to CUNA in 1996 having served as the EVP of federal affairs at the American Council of Life Insurance. Prior to that, he represented the 11th Congressional District of Florida in the U.S. House of Representatives. It was this combination of political know-how that prepared Mica to reshape CUNA at a time the group was in crisis.

CUNA? 'A' Stood For Anonymous
"When I came to CUNA, a private study was done, and frankly, CUNA didn't rate [among the well-known trade groups] at all," Mica recalled. "Now, it's one of the top 10 associations, and our PAC has grown to over $4 million-it was just a couple hundred thousand when I got here. CUNA has always been an excellent organization, but in the last 15 years, we assembled an absolutely incredible management team that has made a real impact on CUNA's awareness and credibility in D.C."

Beyond that credibility, renown and PAC dollars, credit unions have gained something else: the ability to ask for something, instead of forever remaining on the defensive.

"It used to be that every time credit unions spoke a word on Capitol Hill, we immediately ducked because we knew the banks would try to tax us," Mica commented. "Today, we are no longer scared. The idea that credit unions can't ask for anything without running the risk of being taxed is no more."

That's not to say the tax juggernaut will never again raise its head, he noted, but the growth in awareness of what CUs are and how they are different-both on Capitol Hill and on Main Street-makes it less of a risk on which credit unions must always be focused.

No discussion of Mica's career at CUNA is complete without a look back at The Credit Union Campaign For Consumer Choice, the landmark effort to have introduced and then passed the Credit Union Membership Access Act (HR 1151). Just as Mica was taking the reins at CUNA, a court battle between banks and credit unions was coming to a head, ending with the U.S. Supreme Court siding with banks in a question of how to define the "common bond" of credit union membership.

"Thirty-million members would have been disenfranchised [by the high court ruling] if not for HR 1151," Mica said. "We came out of that fight with some bruises and bumps, but credit unions have been able to continue to grow, expand and prosper."

Best Part of The Job
But ask Dan Mica what was "the best part" of his time with CUNA, and he will tell you it was the people-from the board members and chairmen with whom he has served to the staff he helped to assemble. And it is because of those people, Mica said, that he was able to be successful and can now comfortably leave with the knowledge that CUNA is in good hands.

"We have enough seasoned people here, and Bill Cheney has the experience and skills himself that he will be able to step into this position without missing a beat," Mica said.

In keeping with the booming optimism personified by Mica's annual "Isn't it great to be in Washington" greeting to attendees of CUNA's Governmental Affairs Conference, Mica prefers to focus on his victories rather than his regrets, and insists his regrets are few. Still, he'd have liked to have been able to get some sort of capital relief for credit unions and the lifting of the MBL cap before calling it a day. And because he just can't help himself, he did add one other regret to his very short list.

One Goal Not Accomplished
"I wish I had found a way to bring CUNA and NAFCU together in a harmonious way," Mica said. "I still really believe that it would be a benefit to members for credit unions to have a united front. I became a lightning rod on this topic because I advocated for it so early in my career."

Yet if there is still some unfinished business that Mica would have liked to have been able to have all sewn up before he left, no sooner would he have helped to get it all done than five new issues would have cropped up, he noted.

When asked how he'd like to be remembered, Mica replied, "I hope they'd say he did the very best he could and represented us with integrity and credibility."