By Shawn Brummer, Communications/Media Specialist at Dakota Credit Union Association
Jerry Schmidt has been a member of Black Hills Federal Credit Union since the 1980s, when he was just a child. Even though he has been a credit union member for most of his life, he didn’t truly appreciate the difference between credit unions and banks until he started working for Black Hills Federal Credit Union (BHFCU) as the VP of Operations in 2007.
Jerry grew up in Rapid City, South Dakota, where he worked a paper route, graduated from high school, and then pursued his higher education at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree of Science in Interdisciplinary Sciences (BSIS).
For 19 years prior to starting his career at the credit union, he worked for Safeway Stores, Inc. in the grocery industry. Starting as a bag boy, he worked his way up into management, and eventually became a store manager. He went on to manage multiple stores in South Dakota, Wyoming, and the ski country of Colorado – including Vail, Leadville, and Breckenridge. However, after six moves in six years, he returned to South Dakota, where he met his future wife and started looking for a position with more stability.
At the time, BHFCU was looking for a VP of Operations. As it turned out, his education and his skillsets had a great deal of crossover for the position, and it was a great fit for both the credit union and Jerry. He continued as VP of Operations from 2007 – 2013 and was promoted to SVP Operations/Chief Operations Officer in 2013. In December of 2020, Jerry Schmidt was named the next CEO of BHFCU with the retirement of longtime CEO Roger Heacock.
One of the important aspects of his job, as he learned from his predecessor, is to be a mentor to those coming into the industry and building their careers. “I have had several key mentors in my career, and I learned a lot from each of them,” he remarked. “They gave me a passion to serve those I work with and a desire to mentor and develop future leaders so they can meet their potential. Mentorship is a gift to give and receive and leaves a lasting mark,” he added.
With a crew of 330 employees, there are plenty of opportunities to set an example and to be a guiding influence. He continues, “The mission of BHFCU is ‘We Improve Lives.’ I find this to be very rewarding and something the entire credit union can embrace. We are here for our members and strive every day to fulfill that mission. Credit unions also work together and help one another to fulfill our common purpose of ‘People Helping People.’ After nearly 20 years in a large Fortune 500 corporation, it is exciting to lead a dynamic organization that puts members and staff ahead of shareholders and stock price.”
One milestone that he is particularly proud of is BHFCU’s Field of Membership expansion and growth over the last several years. “It has been a very exciting time to play a key role in the growth of the credit union and be able to bring our services to additional communities to better serve our existing and new members,” he stated. “But the best thing is coming to work at BHFCU and having the opportunity to work with a tremendous group of talented and dedicated people,” he is quick to add.
Throughout his credit union career, Jerry expanded his skills and knowledge through various educational resources and received multiple credentials, including completing CUNA Compliance School (CUCE), CUNA Certified Enterprise Risk Management Expert (CUERME), and CUNA Management School (CCUE). He also serves on several community boards, including Board Chair for the Rapid City Downtown Business Improvement District which focuses on improving Downtown Rapid City and supports Main Street Square, a project that has helped revitalize Downtown Rapid City. In addition, he is a board member of Elevate Rapid City and the Black Hills Military Advisory Coalition; past member of the Cosmopolitan Club; founding member and board of director for the Day of Excellence; past Black Hills Harley Owners Group Road Captain; and serves as Board Chair of BHFCU Charitable Fund.
In his personal life, Jerry and his wife, Julie, have two children: Benjamin (10); and Abigail (7). The family also has two dogs: Emma, a Saint Berdoodle (Saint Bernard and Poodle cross); and Charlie, a Berenedoodle (Bernese Mountain Dog Poodle cross). When he is not working, Jerry enjoys spending time with friends, family, and traveling. One quite memorable trip was a nine-day 4,000-mile road trip on motorcycles with a group of friends. They visited all three major Harley Davidson manufacturing plants: Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin; York, Pennsylvania; and Kansas City, Missouri.
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