In the CU Professionals Spotlight: Meet Susan Bergman
by Shawn Marie Brummer
Communications & Media Specialist

Susan Bergman grew up in Bottineau, North Dakota, northeast of Minot and just a stone’s throw from the Canadian border. Both of her parents were small business owners in the town; her mother had the Hallmark and fabric store, and her father owned an appliance store and the JC Penney catalog outlet. Susan began helping them at a young age, working the phones, assisting customers, and helping with inventory at the end of each year. Once she turned 16, she also began working at a family-owned fast food restaurant, at the same time that she was participating in many activities. At Bottineau High School where she graduated from, she was active in choir, DECA, volleyball, and softball throughout her school years.

“My parents instilled in me a strong work ethic, and that is what my husband and I strive to do for our kids,” she stated. “My family is really what influences me. They are there for me when things are good, and they are in my corner when things don’t quite go as planned. We have always believed that you need to treat people fairly and honestly. If you’re honest and fair, then even if you don’t ‘get the sale’ you can still walk away knowing you did your best,” she added.

Following high school, Susan attended NDSU-Bottineau for one year, and then attended UND for one year. In 1995, she began working as a manager for Letnes Restaurant Group in Duluth, Minnesota and Superior Wisconsin. In 1998, the company moved her to Bismarck to help open a new restaurant, and then in 2000 she was moved once more, this time to be the general manager of their Minot location, where she continued to work until 2012.

Susan had been a credit union member since 2006, but it was March of 2012 when she made a career change, and was hired by Ascentia Federal Credit Union. Originally trained to be their operations manager and assistant to the CEO, less than two years later, in January 2014, she was asked to be the interim CEO. In July 2014, she was offered the position of CEO.

“Once I became a credit union employee, I loved what the credit union movement stood for,” she recalled. “I liked being able to help members that other financial institutions didn’t. Not only did we help them, but they in return also felt a loyalty and ownership to the credit union that they never felt at one of the big banks.”

After she was named CEO, one of the first things she worked to change was to move from a multiple common bond to a community charter, which was accomplished in July of 2015. Less than one year later, in March of 2016, Ascentia completed a merger with North Star Community Credit Union. Susan remained as the Minot Branch Manager. She also graduated from CUNA Management School in July of 2017, a proud achievement in her career.

In October of 2017, North Star completed another merger with Northern Tier Federal Credit Union, and by the spring of 2018, Susan was managing both the Minot and the Minot AFB locations. That summer, she was talking with Kim Colbenson, CEO at GEM Federal Credit Union, who told her about a new position she was creating.

“It was very interesting to me, because it was really about going to their select employee groups (SEGs), building new relationships, and retaining old ones,” she explained. “It was about teaching people why credit unions are different and why GEM FCU was the right choice for them.” Susan was offered the position in Membership Development, and started her work at GEM in August of 2018. As part of her new role, she is pursuing her Certified Credit Union Financial Counseling (CCUFC) designation, and is on track to finish this summer.

At GEM, Susan has found a good fit. She likes the smaller size, where she not only wears many hats, but is able to help in many areas. Any given day might find her working the teller line or in the loan department, but her major responsibilities are to build and retain relationships with the SEGs. In addition, she maintains the credit union’s Facebook page and website.

“I enjoy working in the credit union industry because you can truly help people. We work every day to try to find a way to make something work for a member that other financial institutions would just deny and walk away from. We make a real difference,” she concluded.

Not only is Susan making a difference for her members, she makes a difference in the greater community as well. She has served on the board of the Credit Unions United Chapter since 2012, acting as treasurer for a number of years. With just a few months off the board in 2018, she was recently elected as the Chapter President.

She is also the treasurer for On the Water, Inc. – A nonprofit organization in Minot that takes wounded and combat veterans for a day of fishing on local lakes. For the past two years, she has volunteered for Jr. Achievement and taught financial lessons to 1st grade classes, and recently, she was a volunteer for Real World Camp in Minot. In addition, she has previously served on the Eagle Award committee through the Minot Area Chamber of Commerce.

On a personal note, Susan has been married to Shawn Schmutzler for nearly 13 years. They have one daughter, Katija, who is currently active military and stationed in Germany; and two sons, Caleb, a high school senior and Garret, a sophomore. Rounding out the family are the pets – Snootch, a small Shiatzu/Bishon mix; and Zeke, a versatile hunting dog called a Pudelpointer.

When she is not working, Susan enjoys spending time outdoors, gardening in the summer, or sitting around a bonfire. The family all enjoys hiking, and spending time with the family pets. Susan and Shawn also enjoy cooking together and trying new recipes. Even though she says she rarely follows the directions all the way through, they have a good time relaxing while they are experimenting with food.


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