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2021 Georgia Advocacy Conference: Virtually Amazing
Georgia legislative and regulatory officials are impressed with how the state’s credit unions have helped consumers to handle the COVID-19 pandemic – and now officials are focused on creating an operating environment in which credit unions can thrive in the wake of this unprecedented event.
That was the message lobbyists, regulators and legislators delivered to the 30 credit union professionals who joined the Georgia Credit Union Association’s Virtual Advocacy Conference on March 12.
“If I don’t accomplish anything else here today, from the State of Georgia’s perspective, I wanted to say a huge ‘thank you’ for everything the credit union industry has done to rise up and to become part of a solution during the pandemic,” said Kevin Hagler, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance (GDBF). “I know public accolades are typically reserved for the medical workers on the front lines – and they do deserve it. But it’s important to note everybody on this call is also an essential worker.”
During the GAC session, participants from credit unions across Georgia heard from legislators including Gov. Brian Kemp; Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan; Rep. Clint Crowe (R-110); Majority Leader Rep. Jon Burns (R-159); Sen. Bo Hatchett (R-50); and Sen. Elena Parent (D-42). Both Hagler and GDBF Deputy Commissioner Melissa Sneed discussed the regulatory priorities the GBDF will be keeping top of mind over the next year and Governmental Affairs Sydney Rubin provided a governmental affairs update.
Participants also had the pleasure of sitting in on a panel interview between Democratic Strategist Tharon Johnson and Republican Strategist Brian Robinson, co-hosts of the Political Breakfast Podcast. The two accomplished pundits debated as to whether Georgia is a blue or red (or purple!) state in the wake of the 2020 elections.
Most speakers illustrated the ways in which Georgia officials plan to create opportunity for businesses including credit unions to grow coming out of the pandemic.
Rubin, for instance, said LSCU’s advocacy department will have its eye on whether Remote Online Notarization laws could become permanent, allowing credit unions to continue conducting notarizations virtually. That, in turn, would allow them to function more efficiently and competitively in the “new normal.”
By the same token, Sneed said GDBF will be taking a modified stance on the state’s credit unions’ credit union risk management in light of loan adjustments that were made to help members through the pandemic.
“There are several areas where we will be taking a meaningful and understanding approach just to evaluate the risk management posture of the portfolio in relation to modifications that were largely made during the pandemic – and in some cases continue to be made,” Sneed said. “Really, what we’re looking at is that management has policies and procedures in place for those credit renewals, extensions and modifications under those CARES Act programs.”
She suggested credit unions make sure they understand how many borrowers required modifications and that they attempt to predict how these may affect the business of the credit union moving forward.
Burns, Crowe and Duncan spoke about how elected officials plan to create an environment that can help credit unions better assess changes they’ve had through the last year and thrive in a “new normal.” Duncan said it’s what credit unions deserve.
“To think about all the vital roles that credit unions play in helping communities and business grow and in helping individual families be able to achieve their dreams – it really makes you all a priceless commodity. And through COVID, y’all haven’t missed a beat,” he said. “As lieutenant governor, the absolute best thing I can do for credit unions – the absolute best thing I can do – is support and try to procure a strong state economy. And that’s what we plan to do.”
Participants of this Virtual Advocacy Convention said they appreciated Duncan’s supportive words as well as all the insight they received into how regulation and legislation can help them navigate through the challenges presented by the past year.
“I never thought a five-hour virtual meeting would sail by so fast,” said Stacy Tallent, CEO of Health Center Credit Union. “LSCU did a great job and lined up some really good speakers. It was almost as good as being there in person – and I’m not just saying that because I won a door prize.”
Jared joined the League of Southeastern Credit Unions & Affiliates (LSCU) in 2011 as the Florida Director of Legislative Affairs. In that role, Jared was the lead lobbyist on all matters before the Florida legislature and the Florida’s Congressional Delegation.
In July 2012, Jared was promoted to Vice President of Governmental Affairs, overseeing all the League’s advocacy efforts in Alabama and Florida. In August 2013, Jared was once again promoted to Sr. Vice President of Association Services. In January 2019, he was promoted to President of LSCU, overseeing all Association Services activities.
Jared has more than 18 years’ experience lobbying and as an association executive, having served as Chief Legislative Aide in a private lobbying firm for 2 years, Director of Public Policy for the American Cancer Society’s Florida Division for over 4 years, and now with the League of Southeastern Credit Unions & Affiliates. Jared graduated from The Florida State University in 1999 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and from The Florida State University College of Law in 2006 with his Juris Doctor degree. He is also a member of the Florida Bar.
Jared resides in Tallahassee, FL with his wife Heather, their daughter, Hannah, and their son, Jacob.
Brian Kemp is a husband, father, businessman, and public servant. On November 6, 2018, he was elected as Georgia's 83rd Governor, earning more votes than any gubernatorial candidate in state history.
Governor Kemp built his first business – Kemp Development and Construction Company – with a pick-up truck and a shovel. Over thirty years later, he is a successful entrepreneur with businesses and investments in banking, farming, timber, manufacturing, and real estate.
Kemp served on the Board of Suncrest Stone in Tifton as a Founding Director of First Madison Bank and St. Mary’s Hospital Board in Athens. From the backhoe to the board room, Governor Kemp understands how to successfully create jobs, grow companies, recruit start-ups, and make deals on the international stage while also providing opportunities for hundreds of hardworking Georgians.
Out of frustration with government, Brian Kemp ran for public office in the early 2000s.
In the State Senate, Kemp was instrumental in fighting to cut fees, taxes, and mandates on job creators and Georgia families. As Secretary of State, Kemp utilized technology and innovation to cut bureaucratic red tape, slash spending, and streamline government.
As Governor, Brian Kemp is fighting to make Georgia #1 for small business through regulatory reform. He will ensure that all parts of our state - including rural Georgia - have opportunities to grow and thrive. Kemp is fundamentally reforming state government, keeping our families safe, and always putting hardworking Georgians first.
Kemp, 56, is married to the former Marty Argo of Athens. They are the proud parents of three daughters – Jarrett, Lucy, and Amy Porter – and active members of Emmanuel Episcopal Church.
Kevin Hagler was appointed Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance effective July 1, 2013. As Commissioner, Kevin has regulatory oversight of 123 banks, 48 credit unions, and over 21,000 mortgage and money service business entities.
Prior to his appointment as Commissioner, Kevin served as Deputy Commissioner for Supervision since August 1, 2008, where he was directly responsible for supervision of depository financial institutions (state-chartered banks and trust companies; state-chartered credit unions; and, bank holding companies and foreign banking organizations conducting business in Georgia).
Kevin began his career with the Department as an Assistant Financial Examiner in 1997. He progressed through the examiner ranks and became a Supervisory Examiner in 2002 in District 1. In 2003, Kevin was appointed to the position of District Director in District 1, where he assumed field regulatory and supervisory responsibilities for the financial institutions in the District.
Prior to joining the Department, Kevin started his career by working for Altus Bank before taking a position with The Bank of Mobile. n 1994, he moved to Atlanta to work for Trust Company Bank (SunTrust Bank) in the Factoring Division, and later worked in Retail Banking.
Kevin currently serves as Chairman of the Conference of State Bank Supervisors and serves on numerous committees including the Regulatory Committee and the Fintech Steering Group. He is also a member of the FDIC Advisory Committee of State Regulators. Kevin is a graduate of Auburn University with a degree in Finance and is a Certified Examination Manager.
Melissa Sneed is the Deputy Commissioner for Supervision for the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance (Department). As the Deputy Commissioner for Supervision, she is responsible for oversight responsibility for all Georgia state-chartered financial institutions including banks, credit unions, holding companies, and non-depository trust companies. Melissa is also Certified Examination Manager.
Melissa joined the Department in 1999 as an Assistant Financial Examiner and was promoted to District Director of the Northwest District in 2008. In 2016, she was appointed Deputy Commissioner for Supervision. Melissa is a graduate of the University of Georgia with bachelor’s degrees in Finance and Risk Management & Insurance.
Geoff graduated from Chattahoochee High School in Alpharetta where he met his wife, Brooke. Geoff and Brooke both attended the Georgia Institute of Technology where Geoff was a scholarship pitcher. After a successful career at Georgia Tech, Geoff was drafted by the Florida Marlins’ organization. Geoff spent six seasons playing baseball in the minor leagues, advancing as high as AAA before a shoulder injury forced his retirement in the early 2000s.
After retiring from baseball, Geoff and his wife Brooke started a small marketing firm in their living room. The company experienced tremendous success which allowed Geoff and Brooke to sell the business and move on to multiple other entrepreneurial ventures. Geoff most recently served as the CEO of a health technology startup.
Geoff’s faith inspired him to a life of leadership and prompted his upstart run for political office. He was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 2012. During his time in office, he authored several important pieces of legislation. These include HB 749-The Cargo Theft Act, HB152-Michael’s Law and most recently SB258- the Rural Hospital Tax Credit.
Geoff and Brooke are married and have three sons: Parker (17), Bayler (13), and Ryder (9). Geoff has coached 23 different youth sports teams, and also leads a weekly bible study with his wife Brooke. The Duncan’s attend Browns Bridge Community Church, an affiliate of North Point Community Church.
State Representative Clint Crowe represents the citizens of House District 110, which includes portions of Butts, Henry and Newton counties. He was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 2020.
Rep. Crowe is a second-generation realtor, and he has worked in the real estate industry with his parents for many years. Prior to running a real estate business, Rep. Crowe had a decade long career in law enforcement as a patrolman/field training officer and detective with a metro Atlanta police department.
In 2003, Rep. Crowe joined his parents at a local independent real estate company in the Jackson, Georgia area and began selling homes on Jackson Lake, where his family had owned property since 1958. Their lifelong knowledge and love of the lake allowed them to become recognized as leading industry experts in the sale of waterfront properties as permanent residences and vacation homes. In 2006, Rep. Crowe was brought on as managing broker in a local RE/MAX office, where his parents later joined him. As the real estate market began a downturn during the recession, the company decided to close the Jackson office. As such, Clint and his family ventured out to start their own company.
Together, Rep. Crowe and his family opened Crowe Realty, where Rep. Crowe was the qualifying broker and leader of the company. The business continued to focus primarily on Jackson Lake waterfront sales as the company grew, bringing on more agents to service other parts of the south Metro Atlanta area. The company has grown to more than 70 agents and serves all parts of the Atlanta and middle Georgia area. Rep. Crowe continues to focus his sales attention in the area he has lived and loved since a child, Jackson Lake.
Rep. Crowe has a Bachelor of Business Administration and a Master of Business Administration from the Mercer University Stetson School of Business and Economics.
He and his wife, Kristie, live at Jackson Lake and have four kids, a daughter-in-law and a granddaughter. Rep. Crowe’s family enjoys boating, skiing and playing on the water.
Tharon Johnson is recognized as a national leader in political strategy and commentary. During his career, Johnson has served at senior levels of federal, state, and local campaigns and advised members of Congress, leaders in state government, the mayor of one of the largest cities in the nation, and a presidential campaign. His political career took off when he successfully ran a statewide campaign for Georgia Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond in 1998. After a stint in his office and at Atlanta City Hall, he returned to campaigning to elect Congressman John Barrow in Georgia’s 12th District, a competitive seat then held by a Republican incumbent who won by 11 points in the previous election. He served as Barrow’s deputy chief of staff for two years before moving on to serve as Congressman John Lewis’ district director from 2007 to 2009 and campaign manager for his successful 2008 reelection campaign.
It was in April of 2009 that he caught the eye of a candidate running in Atlanta’s mayoral election, Kasim Reed. Reed was polling at just 3% when Johnson was brought on to lead the campaign, a campaign he led to victory, resulting in two terms of service for Mayor Reed. After serving in the administration for a time, he drew the attention of another political figure – President Barack Obama. Obama hired Tharon to serve as his National Southern Regional Director, which included management of one of the most competitive states in the country, Florida. With Tharon’s leadership in the South, Obama won Florida and earned a second term.
Since helping Obama achieve victory in 2012, Johnson has acted as consultant and advisor to officials throughout Georgia and the country, including candidates for U.S. Congress, Georgia General Assembly members, county commissioners, city council people, and school board members. With his consistent record of success, it is safe to say there is no Democratic operative in the country that knows more about how to win in Georgia than Tharon Johnson.
His insight is frequently sought out by major media organizations such as Newsweek, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Political Insider, Politico, Roll Call, The Hill, and other publications. He regularly appears as a key contributor on several news channels and television shows, including CNN, Fox 5’s “The Georgia Gang,” WSB-TV 2, and Georgia Public Broadcasting’s “Political Rewind” and Lawmakers,” to provide analysis of political developments at the national, state, and local levels.
Bo Hatchett grew up in Demorest, Georgia where he played quarterback at Habersham Central. He earned his undergraduate degree from Georgia Tech and his law degree from the University of Georgia. Upon graduation, Bo returned home to work for life-long Northeast Georgian, Dennis Cathey, at Cathey & Strain, LLC.
Bo knew when he left for college he would return to start his family in the community that raised him on the conservative principles and beliefs that make our nation great. He believes our district deserves a homegrown Republican who will protect our values in Atlanta. He is pro-life, a proud gun owner and supporter of the 2nd Amendment, and an original 2016 primary supporter of President Donald Trump. As State Senator for District 50, he is currently the Governor’s Floor leader.
Bo and his wife, Ashley, are proud parents of their two-year-old Hallie and recently celebrated the arrival of their second daughter, Hazel, in March. In his spare time, Bo enjoys time with his family and going hunting.
State Senator Elena Parent was elected to the State Senate in 2014. She represents District 42, which includes portions of central and north DeKalb County.
Sen. Parent is the Vice Chair of the Special Judiciary Committee and a member of the Education and Youth, Judiciary and Rules Committees. She has also been appointed to serve on the Georgia Code Revision Commission, the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council, and the Public De-fender Council Legislative Oversight Committee.
Sen. Parent formerly served as the Vice Chair of Campaigns and Fundraising for the Senate Democratic Caucus and currently serves as Chairwoman for the Senate Democratic Caucus, as well as a member of the Senate DeKalb Delegation and of the Working Families Legislative Caucus.
Senator Parent previously served as the State Representative for District 81 in DeKalb County in 2011 and 2012. Senator Parent then continued her public service as the Executive Director of Georgia Watch, the state’s leading consumer rights non-profit.
Senator Parent began her career as a litigation attorney at Eversheds Sutherland LLP and she is active in her community. Currently, she serves on the Advisory Board for Olmsted Linear Park Association and was appointed in 2020 to serve as an Emory Ambassador, having previously served on the Board of Visitors for Emory University. She is a proud graduate of the University of Virginia and the University of Virginia School of Law.
Senator Parent’s awards and recognitions include: Atlanta Business Chronicle’s “Who's Who Sustainability” feature for her leadership on energy and environmental policy issues; the Fulton County Daily Report’s “On the Rise”; the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s “40 Under 40”; ACCG’s Legislative Ser-vice Award; and the Georgia Association of Women Lawyers’ “Leading Lady”. In 2019, Senator Parent and her husband were recipients of the Clarence Seeliger Champions for Change Award from the Women’s Resource Center to End Domestic Violence.
Senator Parent traces her core beliefs – the importance of family and making the community a better place for all - to her upbringing in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol where her parents stressed the importance of faith and public service.
Senator Parent is married to Briley Brisendine and they are the proud parents of two sons: Brooks, 10, and Reid, 8. They are members of All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Atlanta.
Sydney Rubin started as the Senior Director of Governmental Affairs for the League of Southeastern Credit Unions in June of 2020. Prior to joining the League, Sydney worked for the American Chemistry Council in various capacities, most recently as the Director of Political Mobilization, ACC’s grassroots advocacy program. She represented the chemical and plastics industries across the 13-state Southern Region on both state and federal advocacy initiatives before she was promoted to lead the Political Mobilization team in addition to the Southern Region’s grassroots advocacy initiatives.
Before working for the American Chemistry Council, Sydney worked at the Georgia State Senate and ran a successful campaign for John F. Kennedy, a State Senate candidate from Macon, GA, as well as other Georgia statewide and State Senate campaigns.
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but relocating to and growing up in the suburbs of Woodstock, GA, Sydney has spent the entirety of her career working in the Georgia political realm. Sydney is a Double Dawg alumnus of the University of Georgia where she received her Bachelor’s Degrees in Political Science and Psychology and recently completed her Master of Business Administration.
Sydney got married in December of 2020, and now lives in Underwood Hills with her husband and 8-month-old Cockapoo puppy named Mozzy.
Brian Robinson owns Robinson Republic, a communications consulting firm that specializes in public affairs messaging throughout the state of Georgia. His clients include corporations, issue advocacy groups, chambers of commerce, public officials and political campaigns. Robinson Republic assists clients with message development, issue advocacy, media training, media relations and crisis management. He is a regular political commentator in metro Atlanta media’s leading outlets and national cable news channels, including weekly appearances on WABE’s Political Breakfast. Throughout the 2020 election cycle he appeared weekly as a paid contributor on Fox 5.
Prior to opening his own business, Robinson worked as deputy chief of staff for communications for Gov. Nathan Deal. In this capacity, he managed the governor’s communications staff and served as a senior adviser to the governor. Robinson also ran the communications efforts for the Deal for Governor campaigns in 2010 and 2014.
Robinson came to the 2010 campaign via Capitol Hill, where he served seven years as a communications director in the Georgia delegation for Rep. Phil Gingrey and Rep. Lynn Westmoreland. He began his career as a journalist at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution after graduating magna cum laude from the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, where in the fall semester of 2016 he was an adjunct professor teaching public affairs communications. He is also a member of the Grady College Board of Trust and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority Board of Governors.
Robinson remains a fervent – and often heartbroken -- Georgia Bulldogs fan. He was named to the University of Georgia’s 2012 40 Under 40 class and is an alumnus of the 2015 Leadership Georgia class. He and his wife, Corinna, live in Brookhaven with their daughter, Quinn Paces, and their son, Asher, an English cream retriever. They are members of Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Atlanta.
Follow him on Twitter: @LordTinsdale.