2020 CUES Distinguished Director Linda Carver sees goodness in the credit union movement.
Linda Carver, CCD, daughter of a credit union volunteer, has followed in her father’s footsteps, dedicating herself to a movement whose mission is people helping other people. Nearly 18 years ago, Carver was busy with a career as a school district administrator and almost declined an opportunity to serve as a CU director. However, she reconsidered—largely as a tribute to her father—and has been grateful ever since for the experience of serving on a credit union board.
“I think it’s important when you associate your name with a cause that you believe in it completely,” says Carver, board chair of $14 billion America First Credit Union, headquartered in Ogden, Utah. “There’s never been a time in serving as a director that I’ve doubted the goodness of credit unions. I can’t overstate how humbled, honored, proud and joyful I am to share my name and my time with this movement.”
Carver has served on the America First CU board of directors since 2003. In 2010, she became the first woman elected to serve as the board’s chair. She served a four-year term and was elected to a second term as chair in 2018. During her time on the board, Carver has fostered a culture of caring and professionalism that has helped boost the membership of America First CU to 1.2 million, making the organization one of the largest U.S. credit unions in terms of membership size. Her governance and leadership contributions have been rewarded with recognition as the 2020 CUES Distinguished Director, an honor that America First CU CEO John Lund, CCE, says is richly deserved.
“It’s a pleasure to wholeheartedly endorse Linda in this recognition,” says Lund, a CUES member. “She is an outstanding individual in every way—both personally and professionally. She believes in the credit union mission and purpose. She lives and breathes serving our members, trying to improve our credit union and the industry as a whole. She really adds a great dimension to our credit union.”
A Father’s Example
Carver grew up with her father, Larry D. Hunter, serving as an excellent role model of a dedicated credit union volunteer. As Ogden city manager, he was active in his local credit union and spent over 30 years as a director on the board.
“I remember how happy he was helping other people,” Carver says. “When we walked through the town, people would come up to him and talk to him about their financial situation or thank him for his work.”
One encounter in particular sticks in Carver’s mind. A young man approached her father, grateful for the credit union’s assistance in helping to keep his water from being shut off while he was experiencing financial distress.
“He was very emotional, grabbing my dad’s hand and thanking him, saying what he had done had made a difference,” Carver recalls. “Those encounters, when I was just a child, made a huge impression on me.”
Now as a credit union volunteer herself, Carver is having the same type of encounters with America First CU’s members. “It seems that whenever I am with her, whether at a meeting or an event in the community, everybody knows her and comes up to talk to her,” Lund reports. “She’s well-respected and personable and has the ability to get to know people and let them know she sincerely cares about them. She communicates well with people, focusing on their needs and what she can do to help and support them.”
Carver’s strength as board chair comes from her understanding of the importance of personal relationships. “Even though we have 1.2 million members, we have the feel of a small community where we focus on the needs of the one,” she says. “In board meetings, we can spend as much time talking about someone who needs $250 as we do for someone who needs $250,000.”
Carver’s commitment to helping others was fostered during her career as an educator. She started as a teacher, gaining experience at the elementary, junior high and high school levels. She later served as a school principal before moving on to become director of student services and then assistant superintendent for the Weber School District.
To prepare herself for her career, Carver earned a bachelor’s degree in history and psychology from Weber State University and a second bachelor’s degree in special education. She also has a master’s in educational administration from Utah State University as well as an administrative supervisor endorsement.
Carver is a longtime member of America First CU. It was while she was principal of Canyon View School, a school that focuses on students with disabilities and special needs, that she discovered the altruistic nature that is intrinsic to the credit union’s culture.
Many of the students at the school had need of equipment, such as wheelchairs or speech-assistive devices. “The expense involved in keeping up with these needs was astronomical, so I would tap into every possible resource in the community to assist these families,” Carver recalls. “One resource I could always count on was America First Credit Union.”
Carver was grateful for America First CU’s monetary donations and wanted to acknowledge them by including a formal “thank you” in her monthly Principal’s Message. “However, they would always say, ‘We don’t need recognition. We get our joy from knowing we were able to help, so just refer to us as an anonymous donor.’ I remember thinking, ‘Wow, this is a really first-class organization.’”
The opportunity to serve on the credit union’s board came a few years later. Tom Connors, one of the teachers she had hired in the Weber School District, was serving as a CU director at the time. He approached Carver to let her know there was an opening on the board and suggested she put in an application.
“I told him no at first because I didn’t think I’d have the time,” Carver says. “I had just been named the assistant superintendent and had board responsibilities for other community entities, so I was afraid I would be overwhelmed.”
Three weeks later, Carver had a change of heart. “It was a Saturday morning, and I went to visit my father,” she recalls. “He was starting to show signs of dementia, and as I was sitting there visiting, I thought nothing would make him prouder than if I contributed to a credit union.”
After the visit with her father, Carver called Connors and was relieved to find out that the board opening was still available. She had an interview and was appointed to the position. She was thrilled to share the news with her father that she would be serving as a credit union director, just as he had done for 30-plus years.
“It’s one of the greatest things that has ever happened in my life, and I quake to think how close I came to turning down the opportunity,” Carver says. “At the time, I was thinking about what it would mean to my father, but being part of America First has enhanced my life and brought me into this whole other world of great people and a great institution. It also was an opportunity to pay them back for all the wonderful things they did on behalf of our schools.”
Carver is proud to be part of a board that has served during a period of unprecedented growth for America First CU. Since 2003, the credit union has more than quintupled its asset size from $2.6 billion and has expanded its branch network to encompass more than 130 locations in Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Idaho and, most recently, in New Mexico.
However, Carver concedes that there have been some challenging periods during the past 17 years—most notably, during the financial crisis of 2007-2009. “One of the things I take great pride in, as a board member, is that we went through the Great Recession and did not lay off a single employee,” she says. “I think employees appreciated that even in hard times, where it would have been so easy to streamline by eliminating positions, we were able to refocus our assets to continue to provide good services to our members while still sustaining their livelihood.”
Carver reports that putting employees so high on the CU’s priority list has paid off in the long term. “I’ve had employees come up to me and say, ‘We trust you, we believe in you, we know you have our best interests at heart,’” she reports. “That’s a huge thing for me as a director, when walking into a branch or a department, to know that we’ve earned our employees’ loyalty.”
In 2020, COVID-19 put the credit union through another major test. Once again, the board and executive team worked together to balance the interests of employees and CU members.
“As we continue to go through these unique and challenging times, I think employees appreciate how we’ve adjusted our way of operating to keep them safe,” Carver says. “We’re constantly trying to balance lives and livelihood, and I think we’ve done a good job of keeping services open to our members while also being protective of our employees.”
Moving forward, Carver notes that the America First CU board will play an important role in helping the credit union keep pace with the changes occurring in the increasingly competitive landscape of financial services. “I think the challenge of being on a board and giving direction is to remain relevant, because right now the competition is off the charts,” she says.
Carver contends that the best way to stay relevant is to maintain personal connections with members—even in a world where digital interactions have grown exponentially. “I still believe that reaching out to members, one-on-one, makes a huge difference,” she says.
A Community Servant
Carver’s desire to serve to the community is evident in her involvement in other organizations. She was on the Weber County Adult Education Board and was active in the Boys & Girls Clubs of Weber-Davis. She also has served as chairperson of the Weber-Morgan Children’s Justice Center, which supports children who are victims of abuse.
In addition, Carver is on the board and is one of the founding members of the Northern Utah Academy of Math Engineering & Science, an early-college high school that works in conjunction with Weber State University. Ranked among the nation’s top high schools, NUAMES has two campuses that prepare students—particularly women—for college and career readiness in math, engineering and science.
Though she’s now retired from her job as assistant superintendent, Carver remains active in education, working part-time at Brigham Young University as a student teacher supervisor. When she’s not working or engaged in board activities, Carver enjoys small-town life with her husband, David, in Eden, Utah, a community just outside of Ogden. “We live on an acre of land, and we’re just about as close to heaven as we can get,” she says.
The couple has three adult children and 11 grandchildren. Daughters Jamie Froerer and Kelli Booth followed in their mother’s footsteps as educators, while son David is an accountant. Two of Carver’s grandsons, Taylor Booth, 19, and Zach Booth, 16, play professional soccer with two of the world’s top-rated youth soccer teams. They were both captains of the U.S. soccer team for their respective age divisions, and Taylor has just signed with FC Bayern Munich, one of the most successful soccer teams in Europe.
In pre-COVID days, hopping on an airplane to attend a soccer game was a great joy for the Carvers. Not only did they get to cheer on their grandsons, but they also were able to sightsee in many of the great countries around the world.
“I’m pretty intense about traveling,” Carver says. “I’ve visited close to 100 countries, about 25 of them just from watching our grandkids play soccer. I love having the opportunity to see other countries. You can learn so much from how other people live.”
Carver looks forward to a post-pandemic time when she can resume traveling, but in the meantime, she keeps busy with credit union-related activities. She is more than happy to stay active in a movement that means so much to her.
“The bottom line is we’ve got to embrace each other and link arm and arm, particularly at this time, and let people know that credit unions are the real deal,” she says. “I believe we’re here to help one another, and I think it’s important to spread the message that this is what credit unions are here to do.” cues icon
Based in Missouri, Diane Franklin is a longtime contributor to Credit Union Management magazine.