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In the CEO Spotlight This Week
Story ID:9034  
Date Posted:  December 15, 2017

by Shawn Marie Brummer

Jane Ramsell grew up with six siblings on a farm in the small community of Bowdle, just west of Aberdeen, South Dakota. She was the youngest of four girls, followed by two younger brothers. There had been seven children, but sadly, the eldest, a boy named Richard, passed away when he was just 16 years old.

The family raised dairy cows, cattle, and farmed small grain and corn. “There was nothing better than a blizzard when we got to stay home – except that we still had to go outside and do chores,” recalled Ramsell. “Growing up on a farm teaches you responsibility along with hard work, but there was always someone to play with when we had spare time. One thing I loved doing was baking. Once a month, all of us girls would help my mom make bread, caramel rolls, doughnuts, kuchen, and pies.”

In school, Jane was active in band, choir, the High School Annual, the newspaper, prom committee, and served as a class officer for all four years of high school. She also played sports, including basketball, softball, and track, even though at that time, there was no title 9 and fewer opportunities than there are for young women today.

Following high school, she attended the University of South Dakota in Vermillion. She continued participating in sports, playing intermural basketball and volleyball. During one semester, she had no math class – and discovered that she was miserable without that challenge. So, she decided to add additional course work so she could continue to study math, and graduated with a double major - degrees in social work and math.
 
Following her graduation from college, Jane (photo right) moved to Huron. For a time, she worked at an insurance company in the accounting department. She then went to work at NorthWestern Energy in the shareholders department. For a time during her tenure there, she served on the user board for their software company, along with other shareholder managers. She even served as president for one year. By the end of her term, Jane was pleased to see how the board began to respect the value and input of the smaller utilities, setting the groundwork for her becoming an advocate for the “little man.”

After working at NorthWestern for 15 years, the company decided to outsource the service department. With two kids still in high school, Jane and her husband felt strongly it was best to stay in Huron. Serendipitously, a former colleague told Jane about a position at Huron Telco Federal Credit Union. Jane applied and was hired in December 2003 to take over for the manager who was retiring in April of 2004.

Huron Telco in Huron, South Dakota opened their first office in 1954, thanks to the efforts of employees of Northwestern Bell. The credit union has a closed membership charter, but has expanded membership over the years with the addition of sponsor groups and their families. Some of the SEGs that have added to the credit union’s base include Centurylink in 20 surrounding counties, the NorthWestern Corporation, Venture Communications Cooperative, Santel Communications Cooperative, Midstate Communications Cooperative, Girl Scouts of Nyoda Council, Employees of the City of Huron, Beadle and Kingsbury County employees, and State of South Dakota employees who work in Beadle County.

The credit union took a rather large step in 2006 under Jane’s leadership, when they voted to merge with H&B Federal Credit Union. Not only did the merger bring 400 additional members, it initiated the name change to HB Telco Federal Credit Union. Jane is very proud that the NCUA examiner stated that the merger was “one of the smoothest transitions he has ever seen.”

Just two years after the merger, the credit union purchased their own building, a move that was made to help the credit union fulfill their mission “to provide courteous and efficient financial services and quality products to meet the needs of our member/owners today and tomorrow.” The building is expected to accommodate the credit union staff and members for many years to come.

But far from taking credit for these accomplishments, Jane in turn compliments her board of directors and other volunteers, who have “worked so hard to keep the credit union strong.” Today, the credit union sits at just under $5M in assets, and is run by Jane and one part-time employee.

“The added regulations after the 2008 crash, along with the hours you put in at a small credit union, when you have to be able to do everything, can be a challenge,” remarked Ramsell. “But having the opportunity to help someone - maybe someone no other financial institution will help - is the best. The thank you notes from the members certainly lift your spirits.” She continues, “Working with small, locally owned businesses is also very gratifying. This business keeps you on your toes – there is always something more to learn.” Since Jane loves numbers, she is happiest when she gets to work on her monthly reports. “Then, I’m really happy!”

Another aspect of credit unions that makes Jane happy is the comradery among people in the industry. “Gail Broer at M-O Federal Credit Union has been a real mentor and an asset for me as I was learning the ropes,” she stated. “The willingness to help each other is such a benefit to the credit union industry and to our members. ‘People helping people’ does not only apply to members, but to fellow credit union employees.”

Jane also credits two losses in her life with influencing her outlook, and her work ethic. First her brother Richard, who passed so young, gave her an understanding of how quickly things can change. Even though she was very young when he passed, she has always tried to keep him in mind. And recently, she lost a dear brother-in-law. “He always had such a positive attitude about life, even during struggles. He helps me keep life in perspective and reminds me to enjoy every day.”

On a personal note, Jane has been married to Doug for nearly 41 years. They have three daughters: Charlotte, Alaina, and Kristin. Alaina and Kristin each have two children. Doug, a Huron native, has worked in sales for many years, but at the end of this year, he is retiring. He was elected to the Beadle County Commission last January and is enjoying the new challenge.

When the girls were young, Jane and Doug were very active with their schools, chairing events, serving on the PTO, and coaching softball. They have also been involved in various church activities. In addition, Jane has served on the Salvation Army Board, and worked with the Jaycees at the local and state level.
25 years ago, the Ramsell’s purchased and remodeled Doug’s grandmother’s house in the country. They enjoy working on home improvement projects together, spending time with their grandkids, and traveling. They also thoroughly enjoy watching sports. However, since they attended rival schools, they can’t quite agree on who to root for when the SDSU Jackrabbits go up against the USD Coyotes. But at least when the Vikings play, they are both wearing purple and gold and cheering for the same team!

Photos below: Jane with her husband Doug and their daughters;
and Jane's four grandchildren.