by Shawn Marie Brummer, Communications Specialist
Sarah Senska grew up on a hobby farm near the city of Huron, South Dakota, where her family raised a variety of animals, including horses, sheep, dairy goats, bottle calves, chickens, rabbits, miniature donkeys, and once even a potbelly pig. 4-H and rodeo were always a big part of her childhood, which she remembers fondly.
While still in high school, she began working at Dakotaland Federal Credit Union as a part-time drive-up teller. It was 25 years ago when Dan Cumbee, the former CEO, first hired her and at the time, there were only ten other people on Dakotaland’s staff.
“Dan Cumbee is at the top of my ‘professional Mt. Rushmore’ of mentors; he always believed in me and taught me at a young age to have passion for the credit union industry,” she shared. “He was kind and genuine to everyone, knew how to have fun, but was also a leader and visionary. Even though he was soft-spoken when he did speak, everyone listened. Dan was also very passionate about the mortgage industry and wanted to have every member’s home loan; he instilled in me a drive for that.”
Sarah found that she loved being a teller and made the effort to get to know the members personally. “Many Huron residents still remember me from that,” she remarked. She also developed close relationships with her co-workers. “They were my second family and we had so much fun! I learned many things – including not to stand too close to the vault door when shutting it because your shirt might get caught; and not to change clothes in the drive-up after hours because yes, the cameras are still working!”
After graduating from Huron High School, she headed off to South Dakota State University, where she became a fan of all Jackrabbits sports and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and a Bachelor of Science in Ag Business. With her degrees in hand, she was hoping to work full-time for Dakotaland, but unfortunately, they didn’t have any openings at the time. Instead, she went to work at a locally owned bank in Mitchell, SD, hoping it would have the same small-town feel. However, she says it simply was not the same. So, when a commercial loan processor position at Dakotaland suddenly became available, she jumped at the chance, telling the bank (that was hoping to keep her on staff) that her heart belonged at the credit union.
For the first few years she was a Mortgage Loan Officer in Huron; then she went on to manage the newly opened Woonsocket branch, where she continued to do mortgage lending. In 2009 there was a mortgage refi boom when the US housing crisis occurred, and the government started rolling out all kinds of regulations. It was more than the lending staff of 5 could handle, so Sarah was called in to help. She began managing the Mortgage Department, and soon she was buried in compliance, trainings, and hiring additional staff as Dakotaland began adding branches. Now, after twelve years of managing the department, the lending staff has grown from 5 to its current number of 25, and Sarah has truly found her “place” in the industry.
“People helping people is not just tagline,” she stated. “The more staff I meet in the industry, the more I realize it is the difference in how we think and focus our efforts. We are not solely focused on making a profit; we genuinely care. Every time I meet a credit union person that used to work at a bank, I ask them what they like about credit unions. They generally say it’s the atmosphere of not being so profit driven, besides the comradery between other credit unions and the willingness to help each other out.”
Along with her work at the credit union, Sarah finds many ways to give back locally. She has served on many different committees and boards in her community in the past and is currently active as a local county 4-H Leader. She volunteers for Junior Achievement, Meals for Wheels, and serves on the Heartland Region United Way Board. Rarely one to say “no” to trying something fun and new, when the Woonsocket 4th of July committee decided to have a “Pig Mud Wrestling Contest” this year, Sarah organized a team and showed that pig who was boss!
In her personal life, Sarah has been married to her husband, Scott, for 19 years. They have two children: son Shiloh, 11; and daughter Summer, 7. The family lives on a hobby farm that includes several dogs and cats, a small herd of cows, some sheep, goats, one horse, and too many chickens to count. In her free time, she enjoys gardening, vacationing, camping, hunting, and recently, she has been trying to improve her golf game. She also spends much of her time running kids to sports, church, music lessons and 4-H. She continues to be an avid SDSU Jackrabbits fan, and one of her favorite pastimes is teasing all the credit union NDSU and USD fans. Despite their “lapse in judgement,” she says she still loves them.
2020 was a very difficult year for the Senska family. Sadly, they lost their oldest son, Sutton, in a UTV accident on their farm when he was just 13 years old. Sarah would like to say this about her family’s great loss:
“Although so difficult, I learned how many amazing people are in our lives. I was blown away by the extended credit union family as much as our own family, friends, and the Woonsocket community we call home. I would like to give a thank you to all the credit union people that reached out. I will spend the rest of my life trying to be the person to others that they have been to me and my family over the last year.”
The Memo is DakCU's newsletter that keeps
Want the Memo delivered straight to your inbox?