by Shawn Marie Brummer, Communications Specialist, Dakota Credit Union Association
Barb Welk began her 34-year credit union career on International Credit Union Day, October 15,1987. Starting as a teller at the Willow City Coop Credit Union in Willow City, ND, she was a bit apprehensive about being back in the workplace after spending ten years raising three children and helping with farm and dairy work. But she dove in and never looked back.
It’s not surprising that over the course of those 34 years, there have been many changes and advancements in the credit union industry. Back in 1987, share draft checking accounts were just being introduced to credit unions. Data was transmitted via phone and a “portaverter” through a series of beeps, squeals, and squawks. Balance sheets were received through the US Postal Service, and credit bureau information was accessed by phone and written down longhand on a notepad. Lending decisions were made by a credit committee made up of credit union members. Yes, times have changed!
In 1991, Barb was offered the opportunity to take over as manager of the tiny $300,000 credit union that served the close-knit Willow City community. The members were very loyal, but it became increasingly evident that a credit union of that small size would not be able to survive with the growing operational costs. So, in 1992 the credit union merged with Northern Tier Federal Credit Union of Minot; it was a good fit with diversification of the two portfolios – one consumer driven and the other opening doors to agriculture. Now, they were introduced to the wonderful world of computers, dial-up internet, and thermal paper fax machines. The use of plastic verses paper checks was introduced.
Over the next 17 years, Barb served as branch manager, and the Willow City location grew with the encouragement and independence provided by Darrell Roos, CEO at the time. Positive growth was obtained by adding many indirect lending relationships, and local members found the benefits of being able to expand their financial services and products.
Branch employees were actively involved with Community Club and other organizations as volunteers, and Barb was also involved in the greater community. With the Bottineau County Relay for Life coordinator, she assisted in chartering a Willow City Relay team. In 2003, Barb was named Northern Tier’s employee of the year, and was also awarded the Souris Valley Chapter’s Credit Union Professional of the Year.
In December of 2009, Barb was offered a position as the Rugby branch manager for North Star Community Credit Union. A new building was completed in March 2010, and the Rugby branch office moved from downtown to its current location along Highway 2. She may have been new to the Rugby community, but she sought ways to meet people and foster volunteerism within the community. She accepted a position on the Rugby CVB Board and later became a director of the Rugby Chamber Board, served on the HAMC foundation board, and fostered many friendships by joining the Rugby Lions. In 2015 she was appointed to the North Central Chapter of Credit Unions as a board member and continued to serve until 2020.
Barb co-founded a non-profit charitable organization called Bags of Hope in 2018. The bags are given to persons in the Rugby community going through cancer treatments in hopes of giving them physical comfort and spiritual guidance. With the assistance of many people and local organizations, the project continues to provide this service.
In 2016 she was assigned additional duties with management of North Star CCU’s Bottineau branch. July 2017, her career path came full circle as Northern Tier FCU was welcomed into the North Star family. In the fall of 2018, she accepted the full-time management position of the Bottineau branch and relinquished her duties at the Rugby branch to Blair Brattvet.
Barb began preparing for her retirement early in 2020. Patty Barbot was named manager in training at the Bottineau service location, and Barb was her mentor, in addition to being appointed Market Vice President for the Bottineau area. During her final six months of employment, Barb also assisted Bob Herrington, CEO of North Star CCU, supervising and mentoring the managers of all ten North Star branches. With the assistance of staff and managers, a Branch Manager’s binder was created, which proved to be a very helpful tool when a branch was added in Devils Lake. Barb’s official retirement date was March 31st, 2021.
“My career with credit unions and North Star CCU has been incredibly rewarding,” said Welk. “I realized I found a career destined for me upon recognizing the meaning and true value of the credit union philosophy of ‘People Helping People.’ In my 34 years, the credit union mission never changed. The friendships I have made and the people I have been honored to work with have made a lasting impact on me personally and professionally, and I thank each one of you for being a part of this incredible journey. Now, I look forward to devoting the next years of my life to my family, with camping, gardening, creating quilts, making corn salad for friends, and checking items off my bucket list – one being a hot air balloon ride which was gifted to me at retirement. It is truly hard to bid farewell, but my hope is that we will remain in touch,” she added.
Our sincere congratulations to Barb Welk on her retirement, and our thanks for her many years of service to her credit union, her community, and to the industry.
The Memo is DakCU's newsletter that keeps
Want the Memo delivered straight to your inbox?