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In the CEO Spotlight This Week
Story ID:8623  
Date Posted:  August 18, 2017
 
by Shawn Marie Brummer
 
Gail Broer, President/CEO of M-O Federal Credit Union is no stranger to hard work. Born and raised on a family farm just north of Huron, South Dakota, the chores in the family venture started at a young age. Her first “job” at the age of ten years was in the kitchen, cooking for a crew of 10 to 15 people each day during the harvest season. Back then, washing dishes by hand meant that the task lasted virtually from the end of one meal to the beginning of the next. Eventually, a dishwasher was purchased, lightening the load somewhat, and then, when Gail’s older sister left for college, her job moved outside, joining her twin brother in the daily chores. The days were not any easier out of the kitchen; hours were filled cleaning hog barns, running a combine, or any number of other tasks that were waiting to be completed.
 
Gail jokes that her father purchased a John Deere combine with no radio – which Gail ran exclusively for three years. However, once she left for college in the fall of 1982, her Dad had a radio installed within the week. But more than anything, Gail says that the lessons and values of working as a team were instilled in her at an early age by her parents.
 
“We worked on the farm as a family. My Dad taught me self-motivation and a strong work ethic. My Mom was my role model and my inspiration, juggling work on the family farm and still making a happy, loving home for our family. My parents belonged to a local credit union when I was growing up, and I remember them going each year to the credit union annual meeting dinner and dance.”
 
These are just a few of the many memories that Gail cherishes and laughs about with her family from their years of working together on the family farm, and this is her story.
 
Gail’s first exposure to business, besides farming, was during her senior year in high school, when she worked for a local insurance agency through a class for Future Business Leaders of America. Following her graduation from Huron High, she received an Associate’s of Applied Science Degree magna cum laude from the University of South Dakota at Springfield, located in Bon Homme County in southwestern South Dakota. This was a state supported university, founded in 1881 that closed in 1984. (The campus is now home to Mike Durfee State Prison.) Gail was a member of the last graduating class, and as a member of the University’s Student Senate, she spent countless hours at the Capital in Pierre, fighting against the closure. Sadly, the University lost the battle in the end. But Gail graduated – and with no student loan debt to weigh her down. Her college was paid in full by her parents; the bounty a much appreciated benefit of her years of work on the farm.
 
Returning to Huron after her college graduation, Gail (photo right) began her career at M-O Federal Credit Union, on May 14, 1984 as a clerk with the starting wage of $4.10 per hour. At this time, the federal government was the largest employer in Huron.
 
To provide some background, M-O Federal Credit Union (M-O stands for Missouri-Oahe) located in Huron, South Dakota was chartered in 1950 by 14 members from the US Bureau of Reclamation pooling their money together. As the Bureau of Reclamation employees were working on building the Oahe Dam at the Missouri River, traveling from Huron to Pierre each week was creating a hardship for many families. The credit union was formed to lend money to the federal employees traveling to work on the dam. Shortly thereafter, membership was expanded to include all federal and postal employees and their families.
 
Back in the day, the maximum account balance from one member could not exceed $500, the maximum signature loan was $100, and the maximum secured loan was $200. There is a story from the old days, about a credit union member that was turned down for a loan to buy a new fur coat so that funds would remain available to lend to federal employees traveling to Pierre.
 
Over the years, Gail moved up the ranks from clerk to teller, loan officer, and assistant manager. In August of 1994, Gail was named manager – and just a few years ago, that title was changed to president/CEO. When she first assumed the manager position, Gail was bedridden for more than three months during the pregnancy with her first child – a daughter who was born via C-section one month early. Ever the trooper, Gail returned to work part-time just two weeks after – leaving her daughter in the care of “a version of Alice from the Brady Bunch.”
 
Besides being a new mom, being the new manager brought challenges that needed to be faced head on. When Gail first started at the credit union, there were just three employees in a very small space in the Federal Building. (Their old office is currently being used as a storage room for one of the federal agencies.) In 1985, the credit union moved to a larger office space, still within the Federal Building.
 
Gail remembers that back then, they were hand-posting to member account cards and a large general ledger book, and were strictly a shares and loans credit union. Still, early in her career, Gail had a vision for M-O Federal Credit Union that included a location outside of the Federal Building, more convenient to members not working within the building, and giving them more exposure in the community.
 
In 1996, that vision became a reality when the credit union leased part of a building on a prime corner location in Huron that gave them about 300 square foot of office space that included a lobby and a drive up window. “I have always felt that the networking and sharing between credit unions was invaluable, but that was taken to the next level when a larger, local credit union was doing a renovation and donated their old drive up window to our credit union,” recalled Broer. She says that the donating credit union’s board chairman even stored the window in his shed until they were ready for it. Then, in 1999, M-O purchased the building, and in 2004 completed a major addition that gave the credit union about a 3,300 square foot building. “It was important to me to ‘pay-it-forward’ so during our addition project, we donated our one-station teller line to a small local credit union, and later donated our other teller line from our Federal Building office to another small local credit union.”

When Gail first started, M-O Credit Union was $3 million in assets. When she took over as manager, they were at $5 million. Today, the credit union is over $26 million, while still remaining a single-sponsor credit union. Since its formation nearly 67 years ago, there have been only four people, including Gail, in the manager position. It is a close knit staff in a close knit community, with some fond shared memories. “Back when I started with the credit union in 1984, we were paying 7% APR on a 6-month certificate and 8% APR on a one-year certificate!” states Broer. Fond memories indeed.
 
Besides their main location at 1730 Dakota Avenue in Huron, the credit union still maintains a presence in the federal building on 4th Street SW – where one staff member rotates Monday thru Thursday. It’s an interesting combination of the past and the future for this credit union. As Broer puts it, “I am truly blessed with an awesome staff. In preparing to speak recently to the Leadership Huron class, I compiled our six member staff’s years of service to our credit union - which totaled more than 97 years collectively. I’ve also been beyond fortunate to always have an active board with an admirable commitment to offering the right mix of services to our members while maintaining the safety and soundness of our credit union. We have focused on technology and cyber security, and for our smaller sized credit union, I am very proud to be able to offer a full line of online services, including the mobile app and remote deposit.”
 
Broer, who graduated from CUNA Management School in 1995, says she has seen many changes in her years in the industry; changes in technology and increased regulatory compliance being at the top of that list. Plus, there is always the recurring threat of credit union taxation. But despite all of this, it is the credit union motto of “people helping people” that has always been near and dear to her, and has made for a very fulfilling career. “I love what I do, and feel truly blessed to be a part of a great group of credit union colleagues but more importantly, a field of membership that has been a pleasure to serve for the last 33 years.”
 
Besides serving her members, Broer has been active in the greater community throughout the years. She has held numerous offices on the credit union chapter level and was a prior member of her church Parish Planning Council. She has served on the Christian Learning Center Preschool Board as treasurer, the Federal Employee Program Council, as a Sunday school teacher, and was a former Boy Scouts Personal Finance Management Merit Badge Officer. She is presently a member of her church Endowment Board and the treasurer of the local Tiger Roar Booster Club. And we can’t let it go unmentioned, that Gail was the CUNA South Dakota Professional of the Year in 1999.
 
On a personal note, Gail has two children. Her 22 year-old daughter, Jessica, recently graduated from South Dakota State University magna cum laude with a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Business Economics and two minors: Accounting and Ag Business. She is a Farm Loan Officer Trainee with USDA-FSA (Farm Service Agency) in Madison, SD.
 
Her son, Parker, is 16 years old and is still growing at 6’ 3” – in fact, he grew 8 full inches and two shoe sizes over the past year! As a junior at Huron High School, Parker loves football – and just learned that he will be a starter on the team as left tackle for the offensive side and will also play tackle on defense this year. He is a member of the Concert Choir, an avid hunter who loves the farm, and works at a local livestock supply & feed store. It also appears he is following in his mother’s and sister’s footsteps with his academic achievements, as he maintains a position on the “A” honor roll.
 
In her free time, Gail enjoys spending time with her family and friends, following her kids’ activities, shopping, or working in the yard. And while her career at the credit union has certainly been a blessing in her life, what she is most proud of is her two children. 
 
Her parents still live on the same home place, and just celebrated their 60th Wedding Anniversary. Their commitment to each other and their family reminds Gail daily of one of her favorite quotes:
 
“Faith ~ Family ~ Friends are truly life’s richest blessings”.


Gail with her children, Parker and Jessica.