Local credit union celebrating 50th
By Mark Sherry
Mark Sherry photo
Staffing the Chilton office for Premier Financial Credit Union are (front, from left) Chrissy Propson, Branch Manager Katie Karls and Kate Schneider; and (back) Sue Berres and Tonia Dickrell.

Early in 1962, a dozen employees of the Lauson Engines division of Tecumseh Products Company in New Holstein thought they saw a better way to manage their personal finances.

Fifty years later, thousands of members of Premier Financial Credit Union know from experience that they are enjoying a better way to manage their personal finances.

Today’s Premier Financial Credit Union began as the La-Tec Employees Credit Union, with the La-Tec standing for Lauson and Tecumseh. Those dozen employees of the company filed an organizational work sheet on Feb. 1, 1962, and on March 12 of that year the first board meeting was held.

That first Board of Directors included names such as George Grube, Lloyd Gregoire, Lloyd Ruh, Fred Hayon and Elroy Loose. A Kiel resident, Loose is the only remaining member of Premier Financial who served on that first board 50 years ago. Steve Nothem, current president and chief executive officer of Premier Financial, chuckled when he saw Loose’s member number is in the low digits compared to some members today whose number is over 30,000.

Didn’t know about credit unions

Loose said he was working at Tecumseh at the time and recalls Grube and others talking about creating something called a credit union. “They asked me if I wanted to go along with it,” Loose said. “I didn’t really know what a credit union was.”

Some people today have yet to get to know the credit union difference and how it would benefit them. “It’s just something that they thought would be a better way for the people,” Loose said when asked why they started the credit union all those years ago.

The same holds true today.

Credit unions are not-for-profit financial institutions owned by their members, so all profits are returned to the member-owners in the form of lower rates on loans, higher returns on savings and lower and fewer fees.

All depositors, regardless of how much they have on deposit, enjoy equal ownership of the credit union—a cooperative which has a single purpose of benefiting the members who do business with them.

When the La-Tec Employees Credit Union held its first board meeting with 16 people attending, the minutes reflect an anticipated membership someday of about 500 people. A month later 47 Lauson employees were members. By year’s end in 1962, 226 members had joined.

Back then a member of the credit union had to be a Lauson employee, but that requirement has long since disappeared. The founders probably would not have been able to imagine today’s membership of about 8,800 or the $70 million in assets reached this past year.

“I think that’s pretty good,” Nothem said of those statistics, “especially because for many of those 50 years we were a closed charter (open only to Tecumseh employees).”

To celebrate its 50th year, Premier Financial Credit Union has several activities either under way or planned. “Game of the month” contests are being conducted in Premier’s advertising, at its Web site and in its offices. All entries are

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