by Shawn Marie Brummer
Elizabeth Colby was born and raised on a hobby farmstead just outside of Velva, North Dakota. The second youngest of seven children, she still received many gifts from her parents. Her father bestowed her with an appreciation for animals, especially horses, and she spent years of her young childhood riding at competitions, in 7th Calvary re-enactments, helping drive horses at the Drake Threshing Show, and trail riding in the Badlands. At the same time, her mother blessed her with a love for the performing arts, and she was able to experience every band, choir, and theatre opportunity available.
“The biggest influencers in my life have always been my parents,” she shared. “Both of them are hard-working, often holding multiple jobs to make ends meet while raising their family, as well as being generous people. They instilled in me the belief that titles and names don’t make a person, but actions and behaviors do. They encouraged me to be open to all possibilities and opportunities that life offers up,” she added.
Elizabeth became a talented vocalist, performing in state honor choirs, music competitions, Western Plains Children’s Chorus, MSU Summer Theatre, National FFA Choir, and the Sound of America Honor Choir, all while attending public school in Velva, where she was also involved in Speech, FFA, FBLA, FCCLA and cheerleading.
Following high school, she received her Bachelors of Science in Business Management from Minot State University, which she obtained through study at Minot State University and Minnesota State University Moorhead. Her work experience was always centered around financial occupations; she was an accounting specialist for Capital Financial Services, a loan officer for Northern Tier FCU for a time, and then chief financial officer at Capital Financial Holdings, Inc. for six years prior to accepting a position with North Star Community Credit Union as Branch Manager in 2018.
Elizabeth was no stranger to credit unions, in fact, she recalls her first experience with credit unions was filling her Pee Wee Penguin books with quarters. However, her work overseeing two branch locations, Velva and Butte, is a bit more complicated these days and requires her to wear many hats, often in the same day. She is responsible for supporting member service, underwriting loans, and for production goals, but she says her most important responsibility is coaching and development of her team. This seems to be a natural fit for her, as she is a strong advocate for the “people helping people” philosophy.
“I’m very community centered, and my position at North Star allows me to be an active advocate for my community. This looks different every day – some days it looks like reaching out to community members about the recent PPP, other days it comes in the form of warning community members about the newest scams, and occasionally it is as simple as greeting someone walking down the street as I’m completing facilities maintenance. Every day, I am given the opportunity to be a positive light in someone’s life through my work at the credit union,” she explained.
Her enthusiasm for her community has also led her to give generously of her time and talents to many different organizations. She is the current Treasurer for the Velva Community Development Corporation, and previously has given time to the Velva Community Improvement Committee, the Velva Association of Commerce, Oak Valley Lutheran Church, the Western Plains Opera Company, the local Girl Scouts, and various other small community groups.
It’s no surprise that she has embraced many occupational opportunities that her work at the credit union has presented. She was a 2020 Summit Crasher; a 2021 CUNA GAC Crasher, is a Certified Credit Union Financial Counselor (CCUFC) and has completed the CUNA Strategic Service Strategies “Creating Member Loyalty” course as well as Bank Safe Training through AARP.
In her three years with North Star Community Credit Union, Elizabeth can point to many success stories. The Velva branch continues to bring Pee Wee Penguin to their local schools, a project started by Claudie Selzler. They have also created several new youth-focused events including the “Makes Cents Financial Literacy Carnival” that was recognized with a Louise Herring Award. The Butte branch ended 2019 and 2020 with positive loan production growth, deposit growth and member growth, and the Velva branch also marked positive growth in 2020. However, she is quick to attribute the success to the work of her entire team.
Elizabeth played a role from start to finish when North Star updated their website last year. Then, the credit union launched their new Anytime Online and mobile app, opened a new branch in Devils Lake, started a new financial literacy outreach program with ZOGO, and are working towards “going digital” with OnBase and Docusign. Overall, North Star Community CU had an incredible year in 2020 despite the pandemic, as they also celebrated their 80th Anniversary by paying a $1,000,000 dividend to members, launched a new member loyalty program called the North Star Way, gave each employee a “Pay It Forward” cash bonus to further support the community, granted automatic loan extensions to members impacted by COVID, and wrote over $6 million in PPP loans. As she points out, these successes don’t happen without exceptional teamwork.
In her personal life, Elizabeth is married to Blake Colby and they have three children: Hailee (12); Grayson (5); and Everly (2). Blake holds a construction engineering degree and works for North American Coal at the Falkirk Mine. The family lives on a “not so quiet” farmstead outside the tiny town of Voltaire, and have recently switched from cattle production to chickens, ducks, guineas and cats. In her free time, she works at her side business, the “Flower Barn,” and still enjoys singing, fishing, playing pinochle, gardening, spending time with family and friends, and adding special items to her unique brooch collection!
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