When Was the First Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC)?

This entry was posted by Thursday, 27 January, 2011
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Every year, as the time for the GAC approaches, the Archives is asked this question.  The simple answer is 1976.  But, with all history there is more to the story.  As far back as the founding of the CUNA (1934), a quarterly Executive Committee meeting occurred in February.  Typical of these meetings, the location rotated around the United States including cities, such as, Chicago, New Orleans, Louisville, and Madison.  By 1973, quarterly meetings of the Executive Committee were being held on a seemingly permanent basis in Washington, DC at the Washington Hilton Hotel.  Included in these meetings were special meetings designed to help with legislative understanding, and were known as the “National Legislative Forum” (1974) and the “Legislative and Political Action Forum” (1975).  

GAC Leadership Panel, 1976. (L-R) George LaChappelle, R.C. Morgan, Gary B. Wolter, Mandeville Hellie, and J. Alvin George. ID: 871294.

In order to create a more coherent legislative strategy, CUNA decided to combine (1) a Governmental Affairs Conference, (2) a meeting of the National Legislative Forum, and (3) the quarterly meetings of CUNA’s Executive Committee.  The goal of this “precedent-setting series of meetings” was to pull nationally known speakers, politicians, government officials, and credit union leaders together under one roof to discuss the most critical credit union issues of the day.  Accordingly, this meeting introduced credit union leaders to the Washington political process, while introducing political leaders to the grassroots movement of credit unions. 

This first meeting held February 23-26, 1976, bore the tongue-twisting title, “A Changing Financial Marketplace in the Post-Bicentennial Decade” and was held at the Marriott Twin Bridges Hotel in Washington, DC.  The meeting was attended by over 700 credit union professionals and volunteers and required the use of three different hotels. 

Among the topics discussed were the “technological future” of electronic fund transfers (EFT), its machinery, legislation, challenges, and benefits.  Almarin Phillips, member National Commission on EFT, noted that the EFT system “changes the ball game” for credit unions.  He predicted that automated tellers would become “as common as the Coke machine” and furthermore, that “a mini-computer will cost you less than a secretary.”  While United States Representative Henry Reuss (D-WI) lamented that “the public is sick of the big banks calling the shots.  You don’t have the campaign contributions the bankers have, but you have a right to compete.  I believe that small is beautiful.  I think this country needs more smaller centers of power.” And, CUNA President Mandeville Hellie noted that with all of the strengths of credit unions, “there isn’t a single thing we can’t do.” 

It is clear that 1976 established the GAC as it is known today.  The February quarterly meeting of the Executive Committee blossomed into one of the most important and influential must attend meetings of the Credit Union National Association. 

First GAC Program

GAC Program, 1976. ID: 875488.

One Response to “When Was the First Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC)?”

  1. Shawn

    Mad props goes to Terry Costin for identifying the previously unknown individual as Gary B. Wolter. If anyone has more information to add, please let the archives know. Great find Terry!!

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