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Herrera Nomination May Hit Political Speed Bumps.

Byline: David Baumann

NCUA board nominee John Herrera, a Costa Rican immigrant, has been heralded as an entrepreneur who has given back to his community as an innovator, trailblazing local politician and credit union official.

But in this politically charged atmosphere, that doesn't mean his nomination will sail through the Senate, where nothing happens easily these days. And his credit union's affiliation with the Center for Responsible Lending -- which has been targeted by some conservatives -- could also lead to problems.

Herrera is the SVP for Latino and Hispanic Affairs for Self-Help Credit Union, a Durham, N.C.-based credit union with almost $738 million in assets. He has been an alderman in Carrboro, N.C., and has served on the board of the Latino Community Development Center in Durham since 2001. He co-founded the state chartered Latino Community Credit Union in 2000.

The youngest of 12 siblings, he came to the U.S. from Costa Rica when he was 19 years old.

If confirmed, he would take the seat of Debbie Matz, who resigned from the board earlier this year.

In 2013, Herrera, the first Hispanic immigrant elected to the North Carolina municipal office, won the White House's Champion of Change: Immigrant Innovators and Entrepreneurs Award.

At the time, he described his journey to the U.S. for NBC News.

"I came on December 25, 1983," Herrera, who had received a scholarship to attend the University of Delaware while his parents remained farm workers in Costa Rica, said. "My sister used to be a maid for an American guy who sponsored me. He used to go to Costa Rica every year, because he loved birds. He was my guardian angel."

Credit union officials were quick to praise Herrera's nomination.

"As one who has organized a state chartered credit union, he has inside knowledge of the challenges facing new credit unions -- but also an appreciation for the opportunities that a state charter can present to a growing institution," NASCUS President/CEO Lucy Ito said.

NCUA Board Chairman Rick Metsger said, "John's experience creating the Latino Community Credit Union and at Self-Help Services will broaden the board's perspective and strengthen its ability to fulfill the mandate of the Federal Credit Union Act, including serving persons of modest means."

And NCUA Board Member J. Mark McWatters added, "John's experience in working with underserved communities and involvement in creating a thriving credit union will provide much value to [the] NCUA, federally insured credit unions and all credit union members."

Still, others warned the process may not be quick or smooth.

"Immediately after the President made his announcement about John Herrera, Senate Banking staff on both sides of the aisle said the same thing that they've been saying about all nominations: CyWe're deadlocked, don't expect movement anytime soon, wait until Lame Duck,'" John McKechnie, senior partner at Total Spectrum, said.

He also said supporters of the nomination should use the time to advocate on Herrera's behalf.

"Time can be a gift," he added.

Dennis Dollar, principal of Dollar Associates LLC in Birmingham, Ala., agreed the current political climate is likely to slow his potential confirmation.

"I have known John for many years and have always been incredibly impressed with his intellect and his untiring commitment to credit union principles," Dollar said. "While I would say that the confirmation process will be a steep hill to climb for any nominee so late in a hotly contested election year, John would be an outstanding NCUA board member if he is confirmed. It will all come down to the politics on the Hill at this stage."

The Senate goes into recess next week and doesn't return until after Labor Day. And, the Senate Banking Committee has been slow to move on any nominations -- let alone someone active in Democratic politics.

Herrera supported fellow Tar Heel John Edwards' doomed quest for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. And as an alderman in Carrboro, he was the sponsor of a resolution opposing the Iraq war and has championed immigrant voting rights.

And his ties to the CRL could also slow the nomination. Both fall under the Self-Help umbrella.

The CRL has been outspoken in its opposition to payday lending and has pushed the CFPB to issue strict regulations on it.

The CRL's efforts have been singled out by the Capital Research Center, a conservative think tank.

"[The] CRL and Self-Help are staffed by very clever, very driven activists who have resourcefully used exemptions under the tax code to build a complicated, multi-armed nonprofit structure that advances their agenda," the research center said in a 2015 report.
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Publication:Credit Union Times
Geographic Code:2PANA
Date:Jul 14, 2016
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