In the Spotlight: Meet Claudie Selzler from Town & Country CU
by Shawn Marie Brummer
Communications & Media Specialist
10/11/2019

Claudette (Claudie) Selzler grew up as the oldest of six children, raised on a farm previously owned by her grandparents. They were planted about four miles south of the tiny town of Karlsruhe, North Dakota, a predominantly German Catholic community, where the family raised all types of grain, along with garbanzo beans. Chores were part of the family’s daily routine, both inside and outside, and everyone was expected to pitch in. For a time, they had dairy cows, and they also raised cattle, sheep, chickens and occasionally pigs.

 

She attended public school in Karlsruhe with a class of about 18 students. During her high school years, she took classes in shorthand and typing, as well as business math and law. She was also involved in many activities, including, competitive speech, cheerleading, track and 4-H.  The summers were spent horseback riding, bicycling and hanging out with the neighbor kids.  

 

“I believe my upbringing taught me many life lessons – to work as a team, to work hard for the common goal, and take responsibility of doing the right thing,” she recalled. “That was life on the farm.” Claudie’s parents were very active in the community, and often took on leadership roles in various organizations. Once the family was growing up and leaving home, her mother began working part-time at the Karlsruhe Post Office. She later became Postmaster, until she retired.

    

Claudie met the love of her life, Tony Selzler, the summer before her senior year, and the two married on opening day of deer season in the fall after she graduated. He was from the town of Velva, (home of Dot’s Pretzels) which was about was 16 miles away from Karlsruhe. Just before the wedding, a serious work accident left him with a broken leg, and the newlyweds were off to a rough start. Living on workmen’s compensation in a one bedroom apartment above the Pioneer Bar in Velva, soon the couple was expecting their first baby, and both were seeking employment.

           

Claudie landed a job at the Star Lanes & Café working as a waitress. It was a great opportunity to meet the people of Velva, plus business leaders would often meet there for lunch. As her family grew, she continued to work at the café, as waitress, and as a cook. She then went to work as the assistant activity director for Souris Valley Care Center, but was laid off when residency started decreasing.

 

Her next job was a temporary gig at the Farmers Union Oil as an assistant office clerk. This step proved to be the door that opened her credit union career, as one of Velva Community Credit Union's directors asked if she would be interested in applying for the secretary-teller position. “It was a dream job coming true, but I never thought they would hire with me very little experience,” she shared. But, much to her amazement, she was hired and started her credit union career on August 3, 1981.

 

It was her first experience with a credit union, and she was delighted to belong to another cooperative, something she was quite familiar with. Shortly after she started working, the credit union introduced sharedraft checking, and Claudie was one of the first to open a joint account with her husband. At the time, there were no computers, everything was hand-posted, and overdraft exceptions were called in by telephone. Eventually, the credit union converted over to an in-house computer system. “We spent long hours building our program with a computer provider,” she shared. “Back then, our staff consisted of the manager, a loan officer and me. I was truly grateful for a kind, and patient manager as I was learning my new duties, and for giving me the opportunity to belong to the best financial institution that seeks the best interest of the member,” she added.

 

Claudie continued to work for the small credit union during the early 1980s, a time of soaring high interest rates on farm and consumer lending. It also was a critical time for the farmers, as many were suffering drought conditions. It took a toll on the credit union, with a number of loan losses. When the manager suddenly resigned, Claudie was appointed as acting manager until a new one could be found. “I was devastated and felt the ball had dropped on me,” she remembered. With much determination, she managed to learn the bookkeeping and budgeting, often working late hours, returning to the credit union to reconcile statements, audit reports, and manage the accounting after her children went to bed.

 

After eight months, another manager was hired, and Claudie was named assistant manager. However, in light of the difficulties the credit union continued to face, the board decided it was best to merge with Northern Tier FCU in 1988. About this time, she received a scholarship to attend CUNA Management School. She also completed coursework through the CUNA Star and Merit program. She soon became a loan officer, working for a time at Northern Tier’s Minot branch office, and then was promoted to branch supervisor of the Velva Branch, a position she held for eighteen years – while the credit union doubled in size. She was named “Employee of the Year” in 1992 at Northern Tier’s annual meeting, not only for her work achievements, but for her outstanding community involvement and service.

 

Her impact in the community of Velva over the years was noticeable. She took great pride having the credit union be a participant in all the community events, and as one of the main street businesses, she was active in the Velva Chamber of Commerce, Velva Community Development, Velva Visioning Housing Committee and Velva in Progress. She also served on the boards of those organizations, in various capacities as president, co-chairman, secretary and treasurer. In 1993, she was recognized by the Velva Chamber of Commerce for her outstanding service and dedication to the Velva community.

           

It wasn’t enough that she was spreading the credit union message to her business network; she also wanted to spread the credit union difference to young people. She started a Pee Wee savings program for local elementary students, stopping at the Velva School weekly, collecting deposits and awarding them with stickers. As one parent chuckled, “There is no loose change at my house since my son started depositing weekly to his savings!” The program remained active for more than 15 years. She also gave classroom presentations for ten years, sharing the credit union difference with students.

           

In October of 1999, Claudie thought it would be great to have a “Co-op Day” in Velva, so she organized eight area cooperatives to participate with their own booths, and serve a free lunch. This became an annual event in Velva for Co-op Month, and still continues today! For all her achievements, she was named “Professional of the Year” in 2000 from Souris Valley Chapter, and was then named the 2001 “Professional of the Year” by the North Dakota Credit Union League.

 

Because of the small size of the Velva branch, Claudie wore many hats at work – including loan officer in areas of ag lending, real estate, indirect lending, and consumer loans. So, she was not terribly surprised when Mark Larson, VP Ag Lender for Town and County Credit Union, reached out to her in 2007, asking if she would be interested in an Ag Lending position. She was surprised, however, when she found herself saying “Yes.” As the demands of her job were enormous and pulling her in all directions, the thought of focusing on one particular job seemed refreshing. “The hardest part leaving was the members; they are the heart and soul of the credit union. It was hard to say good-bye to my credit union family in Velva, but I had to remind myself it is only 22 miles down the road and, most importantly, I was moving to a credit union that has the same principles and values of ‘People Helping People,’ plus the idea of meeting new members was exciting,” she said.

 

Claudie started on August 13th, 2007, with Town & Country Credit Union as a loan officer, with her position transitioning to Financial Services Officer after a time. Even though she is now working for one of the largest credit unions in North Dakota – with more than 65 employees at her Minot branch alone – she is still making a difference.

 

She has won two contests for Minnesota Twins Tickets sponsored by CUNA Mutual Group for loan volume and penetration in asset protection and credit life and disability. She continues to be involved with the Velva Community Development monthly meetings as Secretary of the Board, and also served on the Credit Unions United Chapter Board for 12 years. She has been involved with the Special Olympics Golf Fundraising Committee for 10 years, Jr. Achievement for several years, and is now actively serving on the Real World Camp Committee. In her free time, she also managed to receive her Certified Credit Union Financial Counselor Certificate.

 

“I truly feel at home at Town & Country, with wonderful co-workers and staff,” she continues. “The values of family and volunteering hold strong here. There is a quote that I have never forgotten, and it says ‘Bloom where you are planted.’ The place we live, our job, our time, our well-being may not be perfect, but we all can do small things to make it better,” she concluded.

 

In her personal life, Claudie is active in her church, where she has held several offices on the church council, and is currently the treasurer for St. Cecilia’s Christian Mothers. For the past five years, she has been the facilitator of the St. Cecilia’s Women’s Bible Study. She also honors her father, a veteran, by belonging to the Velva Legion Auxiliary, and is the treasurer and bookkeeper for the Velva Park District, where they are busy building new facilities for the youth baseball program.

 

Claudie and Tony, now married for 46 years, have three children: Tina, Telli, and Lance. They all live close by. Tina works with Telli’s husband, Dr. Darin Johnson at Johnson Eyecare & Eyewear of Minot as the billing clerk, while Telli takes care of the back end of their business. Lance works for ADM as a grain merchandiser and commodity trader in Velva. They are also blessed with eight grandchildren: Oldest grandson Jordan (25), is a journeyman electrician; oldest granddaughter, McKenzie (21), will be graduating from MSU this spring; and Riley (13), Luke (12), Brady (11), Evalyn (10), Kasen (7) and Audra (4) keep them all busy attending the many sporting and school activities.

 

Finally, if Claudie looks familiar to you, it’s possible you might know her as one of the “Chermin Ladies” (German Ladies) – a duo entertainment team that consisted of her, and her sister-in-law, Sandy Selzler. The two would entertain for banquets, milestone birthdays, and other celebrations, dressed in costumes and using their exaggerated German accents as “Aunt Bernadette and Aunt Ida.” After many successful performances, the duo hung up their hats so they could spend more time with their families. However, the accent still makes its appearance now and then, when she is spending time with family and friends, or out golfing or gardening, or even when she is hanging out in her kitchen on a perfect Sunday afternoon, cooking, baking and watching NFL football. “Go Vikes!”

 

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