Credit Unions Convene at the Samoset Resort for the Annual Legislative Forum and Volunteers’ Conference

The Samoset Resort served as the host for two annual League events last week: the Legislative Forum and the 2023 Volunteers’ Conference. Approximately 275 representatives from credit unions across Maine convened in Rockport for two days of learning, collaborating, and some festive entertainment brought to you by Maine’s own Schooner Fare.

Legislative Forum

League Vice President Robert Caverly with Pat Callaghan.

Robert Caverly, League Vice President of Advocacy & Outreach, kicked off this year’s Legislative Forum with an insightful discussion with former NewsCenter Maine anchor Pat Callaghan. He shared stories about his long career in journalism, his coverage of Maine politics, and his fondness for covering State House news. Callaghan spoke in high regard about his colleagues at NewsCenter, as well as the reporters he worked alongside in Augusta covering the Legislature.

He also addressed the changing media landscape and the technological shift to digital. He noted how news teams have shrunk in size and that the majority of today’s stories are covered by one person coordinating all components, including videography, editing, and research. Callaghan shared his skepticism of social media and emphasized that trust and integrity must remain important in journalism.

Before concluding his remarks, he shared how Maine was a special place because people here still “vote for the person, not the party.” He provided examples on how Maine resists national trends—even having split ticket voting—and addressed Maine’s contentious 2020 race for Senate, which was influenced by his friend and former colleague, Bill Green, a person who believes Maine people trust.

Following Callaghan’s panel, lobbyists Toby McGrath and Benjamin Gilman, both with Drummond Woodsum Strategic Consulting, discussed Maine’s political landscape and current events. Each offered their unique perspective having affiliation on opposite sides of the political aisle. They also reviewed the initiatives on the November 7 ballot. Their prediction on the failed Pine Tree Power referendum was spot on.

Benjamin Gilman (left) and Toby McGrath (right) during their session.

“Our League was fortunate to spend time with Pat, Toby, and Ben and hear them offer their unique insight into Maine’s political pulse,” said Caverly. “Pat Callaghan is a household name in our state, and it was an honor to facilitate a session with him that I know our audience enjoyed. It was also extremely helpful to listen to Ben and Toby explain the ballot initiative questions right before Tuesday’s election. Their expertise was timely.”

Volunteers’ Conference

After an evening of Down East humor and music by Schooner Fare, the 2023 Volunteers’ Conference opened with remarks from Cris Wescott, League Interim President/CEO. Wescott took pause with a moment of silence to remember the victims of the recent Lewiston shooting. She also thanked everyone for their support of the Lewiston-area credit unions and their members. Before getting the day underway, she offered an update on the Campaign for Ending Hunger “Feed the First” initiative that the Norm Nolette Chapter of Credit Unions organized to help feed both first responders and those in need in the community. Applause followed after Wescott announced that over $30,000 had been raised in one week—a number which continues to grow!

Rick Wargo, Chief Operating Officer at Compliance 4 Credit Unions, LLC, offered an overview of fiduciary duty at credit unions. He explained what it means to fulfil that obligation and offered real-life situations to help credit union directors better understand the responsibility. Wargo encouraged directors to ask questions and to take their time in making financial decisions that could have significant implications on their credit union. He closed his session by soliciting feedback from audience members and addressing succession planning.

Dawn Kincaid, Compliance Consultant at Brode Consulting, offered her insight for managing risk. She shared that to manage risk effectively, a credit union must have an informed board of directors and an established risk tolerance. Kincaid highlighted the importance of ensuring credit union policies appropriately reflect the risks the institution is willing to make.

Amanda Rector, Maine’s Economist, provided an update on the state’s current demographics—including the labor force. Rector acknowledged Maine’s large Baby Boomer population, and how these residents are exiting the workforce due to retirement. She also discussed inflation, the state’s tight housing market, income disparities, and immigration.

Following lunch, all three presenters facilitated breakout sessions. Conference attendees had the choice of attending Wargo’s session focused on succession planning; Kincaid’s breakout covered board reports and “red flags”; and Rector’s session offered a deeper look at the state’s current economic data and demographics.

Before attendees left Rockport, all had an opportunity to support CULAC, the political action committee of the credit union system. The League’s Governmental Affairs team coordinated a silent auction, with items and gift cards donated by credit unions, and raffled off an L.L. Bean corn hole game. Over $3,000 was raised over the two-day event.

The League wants to thank all the attendees and presenters who made the trip to Rockport and looks forward to hosting this annual gathering again next year.