Gina Karsky grew up on a farm near Schefield, North Dakota, which is located about 18 miles south of Dickinson. Schefield is a historic town in the state; its first settlers were German-Russians who took up homesteads from the government.
The original town was centered around St. Pius Catholic Church, which closed in 1990. This is where she attended elementary school, at the same parochial school, staffed by nuns, that her father had attended. She enjoyed those days, but when it was time for high school, she attended the larger school in Dickinson. Today, only a few residences, the former parish house, and the St. Pius cemetery remain.
Gina has a long history in the cooperative industry. For 29 years, she was employed at Farmers Union Oil Company in Dickinson, a farmer-owned cooperative. There she had a wide range of responsibilities, included editing the company newsletter, planning sales and promotions, and credit collections.
The Farmers Union Oil Company was situated directly across the street from Western Cooperative Credit Union (WCCU), and Gina was well acquainted with the manager. Her parents had been members at the credit union, and Gina and her husband became members in 1974.
In 1983, she was asked to join the WCCU advisory board in Dickinson. After serving in that capacity for several years, she was asked to take the place of a retiring board member. Then, in 1995, she was officially elected to the board. Now, she has served as a director for 26 years, with the past 20 years as secretary.
For Gina, her responsibilities as a board member means she ensures obedience to the credit union’s charter, with loyalty and due diligence being of utmost importance. She also serves on the WCCU Insurance Board. She always comes prepared for meetings and believes that asking questions can make for good discussion and sharing of information. Each month, she makes the 130-mile trip to Williston – and says in 26 years, she has only missed two or three meetings. The trip has become a little easier since Highway 85 has been improved with nearly 50 miles of four-lane highway.
During her tenure, Gina has seen tremendous growth and expansion at WCCU. When she first started serving on the board, the credit union was at $78M in assets. Today, they are at more than $415M. They have also added branches in Beach, Ray, Tioga, and Glen Ullin, renovating and building new offices so each WCCU location has a consistent brand and looks similar, wherever you may visit. Gina says this provides both employees and members a nicer environment to work and conduct business.
In addition, Western Cooperative CU is very involved in each of the communities they serve, both in a financial manner and through volunteering. “The credit union industry is very dedicated,” she remarked. “Its employees and volunteers always strive for the good of the members – and their commitment is seen at the local level and at conferences.” Gina is always a fixture at the DakCU Annual Summit and enjoys seeing “the good things happen” in person!
Besides association events and educational opportunities, Gina has expanded her board knowledge by completing multiple volunteer achievement programs, including the Edward Filene 12 courses, the Friedrich Raffeisen 18 courses, and the Roy Bergengren 24 courses. Looking ahead, the challenges she sees for the industry include the ever-changing regulatory environment requiring more reporting, cybersecurity and fraud, and competition from other entities besides financial institutions, to name a few.
In her personal life, Gina currently volunteers as a lector at her church and serves on the social committee there. She previously volunteered at Trinity High, and for several years at CHI hospital, where she still belongs to the Ladies Auxiliary. She was also a past volunteer board member for the ND Central Credit Union board, before it became Midwest Corporate.
Next April, Gina and her husband Ed will be celebrating 60 years of marriage! They have two sons and one daughter; all are married and holding successful careers. They also have eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, which keeps their lives very busy. Since retiring, she and Ed have enjoyed travelling, and have already been to 49 states with only Alaska left to conquer. They especially enjoy river cruises and have been to Europe four times.
One of her favorite hobbies is baking, especially German and Czech specialties. Each summer, she tends to a rather large vegetable garden that provides many canned pickles, sauerkraut, and other homegrown delights. For the past 40 years, she has belonged to a “coffee group” that consists of a posse of dear friends that meet up several times a week for “therapy” sessions.
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