by Shawn Marie Brummer, Communications Specialist
Pat Tollefson grew up on a dairy farm near Maple Lake, a small town between Minneapolis and St. Cloud, Minnesota. Her grandfather was born on that same farm, the first family member to be born in the United States, making Pat a third-generation American. The original family farm is now a Minnesota Century Farm and is still owned by the family.
As a child, she attended parochial grade school, and then graduated from the local high school in a class of about 60 students. “The smaller school gave me the opportunity to be very active in school; I performed in school plays, was on the speech and debate teams, and was involved in cheerleading and other school clubs,” she shared.
Pat’s first experience with the credit union industry was through her first job at PAKO, a Minneapolis-based corporation and supplier of photographic, graphic arts, and x-ray processing equipment. They had a small SEG credit union in the factory, so she joined and took out her first car loan. “This was a big surprise to my small hometown Security Bank – they even called me and tried to get me to rewrite the loan, but I didn’t,” she recalled.
After Pat was married, she and her husband became business owners, operating a Coast-to-Coast Hardware store in Minnesota. Later, they moved to South Dakota, to the farm where her husband had grown up. She worked a variety of jobs over the years, holding positions in accounting, public relations, retail, and managed a boutique, a motel, and a non-profit organization before becoming a licensed independent insurance agent.
Once in the Aberdeen area, Pat joined Aberdeen Federal Credit Union, now Area Federal Credit Union. In 1996, she was elected to their board of directors, where she met Arlene Elliot, a longtime board member who became a mentor to Pat. “All the board members were great mentors; Arlene was the other female on the board and we formed a wonderful bond,” she said.
She also has great respect for former board chair Ron Feickert, another strong mentor she still speaks to regularly about credit union business, and for the current CEO, Robert Goscicki, who she says is a great team member and strong credit union advocate.
As the current Area FCU Board Chairperson, Pat is pleased the entire board and executive team work very well together. “Fellow board members are supportive and dependable and are great team members,” she stated.
One successful project the credit union team started is the “Rising Star” talent contest in partnership with the Brown County Fair. Area FCU began sponsoring the event six years ago, and it has grown to the point that each year, they must sift through many entries to choose the top 16 acts that compete on the “big stage” during the fair. More than 500 people attend the event each year to cheer for their favorite acts. The contest has provided the credit union with wonderful public relations opportunities to showcase their “people helping people” philosophy.
“I very much enjoy the industry and its grass roots beliefs and practices,” Pat continues. “I grew up hearing about the importance of member-owned cooperatives; the credit union industry is one of the biggest examples and practices the cooperative principles completely.”
Besides being an active volunteer at Area FCU, Pat currently serves as treasurer on the board for the National Association of Credit Union Chairs (NACUC); on the Northeast SD Economic Development Corporation board (NESDEC); and is a board member for the Aberdeen Boys & Girls Club. She is a member of the Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce, and a frequent volunteer at various community events. Most recently, she was chosen by CUNA to be a member of the 2022 Volunteer Leadership Committee.
Previously, she has served on the boards for the Independent Insurance Agents of SD Association (IIASDA); SD Home Builders Association (SDHBA); Groton School Board; and the Northeast SD Head Start and SD State Head Start boards.
In her personal life, Pat has been married to her husband, Tom, for 47 years. They have two adult children, and four grandchildren. The family loves animals, and at one time, they raised and showed Arabian horses. However, nowadays, their pets include one Golden Retriever, three house cats, and an assortment of “outside cats” they care for.
When they are not working, you are likely to find Pat and Tom at their lake cabin, relaxing and enjoying activities on the water. They also enjoy golfing, although they don’t play nearly as much as they would like. Finally, Pat has been bestowed with an honorary title from her children: “Awesome Mom!” And if you don’t believe it, just check out her customized car license plate holder!
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