by Shawn Marie Brummer, Communications Specialist
Tiffani Crist grew up with one younger brother in the small town of Webster, North Dakota, located about 12 miles north of Devils Lake. With a population of about 80 within a five-mile radius, it was small-town country living, and Tiffani was one of just two girls and six boys in the community. As a child, she went with the “consensus” of her small group of friends, and so it was bike riding, fort building, and playing football for entertainment.
Her parents, credit union members themselves, opened a Pee Wee Penguin young savers club account for her in 1990, her first exposure to credit union membership. After graduating from Starkweather School, a K-12 educational institution located just north of Devils Lake, she applied for a job at Lake Region Credit Union, which later rebranded as Citizens Community Credit Union, which merged with First Community Credit Union (FCCU) in 2018.
Starting as a part-time teller, within a year she was offered a full-time position. She continued working for the next seven years as a teller, then spent eleven years working in bookkeeping/back-office operations. For the past four years, she has taken on the role of Financial Services Representative/Account Specialist.
As the Account Specialist, Tiffani says many hats are worn, a familiar statement for credit union professionals! She opens new membership accounts, helps existing members grow their deposit relationship with the credit union, works directly with members on their specialty account needs such as IRAs, HSAs, and CDs, in addition to assisting at the teller line, working with deceased member pipelines, and staying current with reengagement efforts.
It's surprising to her how quickly 22 years in the industry have passed. “I was just a kid, fresh out of high school when I started at the credit union,” she remarked. “During my 22 years here, I’ve matured, married, had kids, and said ‘happy retirement’ to some coworkers who really are like family to me. I love the members and our team! I’ve built some great bonds with our members over the years, and I love meeting new members and trying to build our relationship with them. The FCCU team is my second family and I love the fact that family is a big part of our culture,” she added.
Not only has she developed a “second family” at work, but she has found some key career mentors who have coached her and trained her as she grew in her responsibilities. Lead Teller Tanya Olson; Mary Marchand-Helland; and Phil Langerud, all longtime employees at Citizens Community CU come to mind.
“To an impressionable, young lady just starting in a professional work environment, Tanya took the time to teach me well, how to professionally address members and situations, how not to overreact, and how to train new tellers. Over the years, Phil and Tanya started working with me to understand a little bit more about CDs and eventually IRAs. Miss Mary, the gentle soul she was, taught me how to ‘go with the flow’ – no need to get worked up. It was hard to see her retire, and even harder to say my final goodbyes to her when she passed in February 2022,” Tiffani shared.
Obviously, her commitment to the credit union industry has served Tiffani well, not only professionally, but personally. In 2020 she was recognized for 20 years of service, and in early 2022 she was recognized as FCCU’s 2021 Volunteer of the Year. She is currently serving her second term as the President of the North Central Chapter of Credit Unions, is the current President of VFW Auxiliary Post 756, is Trustee on the District level, and serves as Chairman of Youth Activities Program for the Department of North Dakota VFW Auxiliary. She is also very proud of the fact that she is a third-generation lifetime member, having been involved since she was 16 years old, but she is especially honored to have passed that tradition to her own children, who love to help with Auxiliary events, such as parades, community dinners, and elderly holiday gift bags.
Other times, you might find Tiffani volunteering with the Fort Totten Little Theatre, where she recorded more than 100 hours of volunteer time in just two short months in 2021, when she was involved in a production of Grease, in which she played the role of Miss Lynch, the Principal. She is also “hands on” with the Pee Wee Penguin program, and now that schools are getting back to “normal,” looks forward to spending time with the kids and planning Pee Wee parties.
In her personal life, Tiffani has been married to her high school sweetheart, Lee Crist, for 14 years, although they have been together for 24 years. They have two children: son LJ (14) who is a freshman, and daughter Destani (12) who is in 7th grade. The family lives in the country, where they share property with their two dogs and four cats.
In her free time, she enjoys needlework, particularly crochet, a hobby she learned as a child and has picked up again over the past several years. She makes many blankets as gifts, including baby blankets, and is currently working on a “Vikings” theme blanket for a neighbor. If you do have a chance to meet Tiffani, don’t think it’s going to be a brief encounter! She says she has the “gift of gab” – something she calls both a “blessing and a curse.”
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