By: VyStar President/CEO Terry R. West
Earlier this year, I announced my plans to retire in August after more than 28 years with VyStar Credit Union and almost 26 as President/CEO. It has been an incredible honor to be the President/CEO of your credit union. Thank you!
As you might imagine, deciding to retire was not easy. Sadly, there is no perfect time to leave a credit union that you have nurtured for almost three decades. However, I recently turned 63 and decided it is time to move on to the next phase of my life as VyStar moves on to its next phase.
My decision to retire was especially difficult because I have the same great passion for VyStar today as I did when I started in the fall of 1988, when it was known as Jax Navy Federal Credit Union. I still love coming to work every day and interacting with our members and employees. Serving VyStar has been the opportunity of a lifetime for me—one I will never forget. As some of you may know, I came from a humble background, and to get to lead one of the largest and most successful credit unions in the nation has been a dream come true. VyStar, its members, its employees and the communities we serve have been significant parts of my life.
I first came to VyStar (then Jax Navy Federal) as the Vice President of Member Services in 1988. When I became President/CEO in December 1991, I thought I had been given the most incredible opportunity anyone could have. At that time, we had $570 million in assets, 143,000 members, five branches, eight ATMs and a small call center. Today, VyStar has over $6.8 billion in assets, 562,000 members, over 200 ATMs and 42 branches, with three more branches opening later this year. We also have 11 high school branches in six school systems, where we provide high school students with financial education. Two more high school branches will open in August. During this summer, we will have 156 student interns training at VyStar. As a former middle school teacher, I strongly believe in the importance of financial education.
In 2016, VyStar continued its legacy of strong financial performance and steady growth in loans, membership and deposits with a record year in net income. Today, VyStar is the 18th largest credit union in the nation out of almost 6,000.
With all of the financial growth and success VyStar has achieved over the years, my proudest achievement might surprise some people. It is what VyStar’s success has allowed us to do for our members, our employees and our communities. My hope is that VyStar’s efforts in the community, support of local nonprofits and dedication to financial education have left Northeast and Central Florida in a better place.
Being a strong advocate for our military men and women is also important to me. VyStar (then Jax Navy Federal) was founded 65 years ago to serve civil service members, military employees and their families at the Naval Air Station Jacksonville (NAS Jax). Since that time, we have worked to carry on that tradition and remain deeply rooted in support of our military.
I want to express my great appreciation for the support of our dedicated Board of Directors. The Board and I share a passion and vision for VyStar and for ensuring that we provide our members the best service possible. We have a committed and talented leadership team that has also supported me through the years. I am very proud of what they do every day in service to our credit union and I am confident that VyStar will remain in very capable hands.
VyStar’s Board is committed to finding the best candidate possible for my replacement and will take whatever time is needed to do so. Our Board is in the process of conducting a national search to identify the next President/CEO of VyStar. The Board wants to ensure they select someone who is concerned for our members, our employees and the communities we serve, and who will help lead VyStar to even greater success in the future.
The search for my replacement is well underway; however, it is possible that the new President/CEO will not be fully engaged by the time I retire on August 11th. With that in mind, the Board has selected Kathy Bonaventura, VyStar’s Chief Lending Officer, to serve as Interim President/CEO effective August 12th until my replacement assumes the role. Kathy has more than 30 years of experience in the financial industry. She began her career with VyStar in 1992 as Vice President of Mortgage Lending.
I wish our members, officials, employees and communities the very best. It has been a privilege and honor to work with each of you, and I am proud to have been a part of such an outstanding organization. I cannot thank you enough for your support and all you have done to make our credit union what it is today. VyStar has a bright future ahead, and I look forward to witnessing its continued growth and success.
Terry R. West,
VyStar Credit Union