In the CU Professionals Spotlight: Meet Pat Murtha!
by Shawn Marie Brummer
Communications & Media Specialist

Pat Murtha grew up on a farm near Emery, South Dakota, southeast of the city of Mitchell. She came from a large family; she was the third child in a family that included seven girls and four boys. There was plenty of work to be done, but Pat says her father did most of the chores, caring for the cows, sheep, hogs and goats, as well as planting and harvesting the crops and tending to a huge garden. Some of her earliest memories include sneaking into the garden with her siblings and a salt shaker, and raiding the watermelon patch. The family struggled at times, and the kids shared many hand-me-downs, but there are plenty of good memories too.

Starting at a young age, their father taught them that if you wanted something, you must work for it. So when she was just nine years old, Pat started her first job – folding newspapers for .50 cents an hour. She wanted that money to buy her own Barbie doll, which she did for $1.99. She still has the doll and the original box she came in.

Pat graduated from Emery High School with a class of 36 students, and then went to work for Tom Koehn, a CPA for about ten years. “He had patience, and I had a huge desire to learn and to be productive,” she recalled. “Thank goodness, as he taught me everything I know about accounting,” she added. Her duties at the CPA firm were many. She learned how to complete tax returns, financial statements, and monthly financial work and payroll for several businesses, and eventually became the office manager.

Pat was exercising one day at the Mitchell Recreation Center when she was approached by one of the board members of the Mitchell Area Federal Credit Union. He asked if she would be interested in the manager’s position, and in turn, she asked him, “What is a credit union?” He briefly explained that it was basically just taking money in and lending money out – and she thought that sounded fairly easy and stress-free, compared to a CPA firm.

She was hired and began working for the credit union on April 15, 1987 – right after finishing out tax season at the CPA office. She soon learned that NCUA was getting ready to close the small credit union. With just 800 members and assets of $475,632, the delinquency list was a full five pages long. The profit and loss statement was in the negative, and had been for several years. During her first week on the job, she had to repossess a car – with her legs shaking from adrenaline. But overcoming her fear, she says it only made her more determined to get the credit union back on track. When she discovered the credit union had been established on July 28, 1954 – the exact same day she was born – she truly felt that it was meant to be, and she was “home.”

She started the credit union on the road to recovery by first computerizing the small institution – a job she completed herself in 1989, doing the input at night. At that time, a “conversion” wasn’t a viable option. By 1990, now more efficient, the credit union grew so much they had to move to a larger location. They moved to an old liquor store in the bowling alley, because it had a drive up window. They occupied that space and continued to grow, building and moving into their own new office in November of 1999.

In 2001, the credit union was featured in the Credit Union Journal magazine. As a “Peak Performing Small Credit Union,” they were a high performer in the “Return to the Member” rankings and part of the “Best Practice” features, which examined why and how the credit union’s management had been able to drive the credit union’s success.

At the helm of this successful transition was Pat, who operated as the President/CEO through all of those trying years, from 1987 until Mitchell Area FCU merged with Dakotaland Federal Credit Union in 2014. By then, Mitchell Area FCU was on solid ground, with assets exceeding $21M, over 1800 members with 0 delinquencies, over $2M in undivided earnings, and 11% capital. Pat became the Mitchell Branch Manager for Dakotaland FCU, and now, “It’s been 32 years of making wonderful memories with credit union family,” she stated.

In addition to working within a credit union for more than 30 years, Pat has served as President of the South Central Chapter. She was also a board member for the South Dakota Credit Union League, and has earned top honors in sales from CUNA for Credit Disability and Credit Life.

In her personal life, Pat has been married to the love of her life, Shawn Murtha, for nearly twenty years. He’s another reason why she loves credit unions – the two met when he came into the credit union to open an account. The couple was actually married twice: once in a surprise wedding on the beach in Mazatlan, Mexico – in “God-awful matching shirts” that her husband picked out at Senor Frogs. After they returned home, they had a small wedding in the local park and a “fun party” after to include family members and friends. The couple now celebrates both anniversaries, every year.

Pat also has two adult children, her daughter Anna, who is married to Jason, and her son Michael, as well as four beautiful grandchildren that she loves to spoil. When she is not working, Pat is either on a trip, or planning a trip. Her motto is “travel while you still have your hips and knees – because you don’t know what tomorrow will bring!” And be sure to pack a life jacket, too. You see, Pat has had a life-long fear of drowning. But it seems to me, she’s pretty good at swimming upstream.


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