Senior Vice President
Arizona Credit Union League & Affiliates
Pat Bodnar has never worked at a credit union. Yet, as senior vice president of the Arizona Credit Union League & Affiliates, she certainly works for them.
In the 24 years that Bodnar has been at the league, her colleagues say she has reached out to the business community more than anyone else on the staff.
Bodnar started out as an administrative assistant before moving on to director of administration and finance. She then became vice president of governmental affairs, and in 2004 was promoted to her current position of senior vice president.
“I didn’t know anything about credit unions when I started,” Bodnar says. “It’s been great fun to have a job that you love.”
Prior to joining the league, Bodnar handled constituent services for then-Gov. Bruce Babbitt. When Babbitt left office, the credit union opportunity came up.
“I fell in love with credit unions and their philosophy,” she says.
No doubt her tenure in the Babbitt Administration boosted her interest in political activity.
“I’ve always been interested in politics and politicians,” Bodnar says.
She was instrumental in developing a governmental affairs department at the league, and continues to oversee legal and legislative affairs and regulatory issues that affect state and federal credit unions. Bodnar is also responsible for public awareness campaigns, communications, community involvement, international partnerships and member service issues.
She credits her development of a government affairs program with helping to advance her credit union career.
“We’re turning credit union members into political activists,” Bodnar says. “Things like getting out the vote turn them on.”
When credit unions wanted to expand by making loans available to the business community, Bodnar was instrumental in forming a business lending council. The group assists business members in obtaining Small Business Administration loans and shares best practices among credit unions interested in making business loans.
“Small businesses need more options, not fewer,” she says. “Small business is the engine that drives economic growth.”
For her efforts, Bodnar was named SBA Advocate of the Year in 2007. She also serves as treasurer of Arizona Saves, an organization that strives to help Arizonans become financially self-sufficient through debt reduction and asset building. Bodnar also is a founding member of ArizonaFirst, a coalition of financial institutions dedicated to a public/private partnership aimed at preparing for any disaster or crisis in Arizona.
Robert D. Ramirez
President and CEO
Vantage West Credit Union
Not many people get promoted after 30 minutes on the job, but that’s exactly what happened to Robert D. Ramirez, president and CEO of Vantage West Credit Union in Tucson.
Born in Nogales, Ramirez received a degree in accounting from the University of Arizona in 1976. He worked for Sundt Corporation and Capin Mercantile Corporation before joining the Davis Monthan Federal Credit Union (which later became Vantage West) as assistant controller in 1985.
“I always tell my employees, watch for the keys that drop at your desk,” Ramirez says. “On my first day, my supervisor, the chief financial officer, resigned. I became acting CFO a half hour after I started.”
Six months later, examiners gave the credit union what Ramirez calls “a pretty bad rating.”
“I promised my boss, the president, that if he would give me three months I would get us back to a No. 1 rating,” Ramirez says. “If I did, he said he would double my salary and make me chief financial officer.”
Ramirez and his boss both made good on their promises. Ramirez moved up the ranks to executive vice president in 1996, and has served as president and CEO of Vantage West since April 2000. In addition, he holds the title of vice chair of the Arizona Credit Union League & Affiliates board of directors.
When Ramirez came onboard, the credit union had $99 million in assets with 36,000 members. It has grown to more than $1 billion in assets with 105,000 members.
“We’re consistent in providing overall value for the member,” he says. “Our goal is to be consistent, to meet their needs whenever we can.”
That became a little more challenging since the national economy took a nosedive. In the past year, Vantage West modified more than 3,000 loans totaling in excess of $55 million.
Alhambra Credit Union
Early on, Mary Marshall experienced the value of credit unions. While living in the state of Washington, a local credit union provided needed assistance to her family.
“That’s when I knew I wanted to work there,” Marshall says. “I convinced them they needed to hire me.”
She started as a loan officer, and after five years enrolled in the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Management School in Madison, Wis. Attending the CUNA Management School, Marshall says, “opened my eyes to the possibility of running my own credit union.”
When her family relocated to Arizona in 1984, Marshall figured it was time to pursue her career goal.
“I felt that I was schooled in credit unions and was prepared to see what I could do with another small credit union,” she says.
At the time she joined the Alhambra Credit Union, currently located at 35th and Northern avenues, it was what she referred to as “a sleepy little shop” that was serving the Alhambra School District, and was housed in the district.
“It wasn’t growing,” Marshall recalls.
It had 700 members and assets of less than $2 million. Twenty-two years later, when Marshall retired in December 2007 as Alhambra’s CEO, the credit union had 3,700 members and close to $20 million in assets.
So it’s not surprising that Marshall was the 2009 recipient of the Arizona Credit Union League and Affiliates Very Outstanding Credit Union Person award. For more than 35 years, the league has given the award to a special individual, recognizing that person’s level of service to the credit union community.