In the Dakota CU Professionals Spotlight
by Shawn Marie Brummer
Communications & Media Specialist

Marty Willms was born and raised in the small town of Winner, South Dakota located in the south-central part of the state. There was a rather long gap of eight years between her and the next closest of four older siblings, who all helped to raise her. The family lived in town, and Marty spent her time in many school activities, including band, choir, theater, softball and cheerleading. She also played guitar and performed at various community functions and church. But if you want to really understand who she is, you need to go back one generation further – to her mother, whom Marty greatly respected, appreciated, and admires to this day. In her own words:

“My mother always encouraged us to get an education as it is the one thing that you can do for yourself that no one can take from you. Mom was born in 1919 on a farm in Thunder Hawk, South Dakota. She and her twin brother were part of a large family of seven boys and two girls. Mom was a scrapper and often defended her twin. She only completed an eighth grade education and lacked good math and reading skills. My mom struggled to read the children’s Little Golden Books. She was brave, though, and ventured out on her own to California where she worked in an airplane factory during WWII. Mom was a good negotiator and was able to trade her sugar rations in exchange for gas and other necessities. She later became a stay-at-home mom to my four siblings and me. When I was about nine years old, she went to work for a department store in Winner. She was a hard worker and was well liked by her manager and coworkers. Mom was later approached for the position as manager of the shoe department – but was told that she would need to improve her math skills. With the help of my older siblings, mom studied math at home and landed the management job. She worked as the manager until her retirement. My mom was proof that through hard work and a strong desire to succeed you could achieve your goals. Needless to say, all of us got our education beyond high school.”

It’s not hard to understand the emphasis that Marty learned to place on education. She studied hard, achieved good grades, and graduated from high school with a class of about 80 students. She then pursued her Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration from Black Hills State College in Spearfish, South Dakota – now known as Black Hills State University.

Her first real job after college was with First Bankcard Center Omaha in their Yankton, South Dakota office. She began as a collector and quickly moved up to an associate manager. Working this job gave her a wealth of valuable experience as she handled delinquent and over-limit card chargebacks, early stage collection and member service inbound calls, and also dealt with some fraud issues and skip tracing. She worked there for 13 years, until 1998 when the family relocated to Rapid City.

Once in Rapid City, Marty was hired as a teller at Army Guard FCU, and shortly after was promoted to a loan officer. One of the most memorable loans she approved for a member was for a 1954 Chevrolet Handyman Wagon. But we’ll talk about that more later…

Besides loans, she also handled compliance, earned her BSACS and CUCE designations from CUNA, and also worked with collections, marketing, and various member service duties. After working there for a few years, the credit union obtained a community charter and changed their name to Minuteman FCU under the new leadership of Mary Connick. Marty gained further experience over the next several years as a branch manager, operations manager, and compliance officer, until she left the credit union in December of 2014. “I am very grateful for the many opportunities, education, experiences, and friendships I acquired at Minuteman FCU,” she stated. 

It was May of 2015 when a personal life change prompted Marty to relocate to Sturgis, and she was hired as the VP of Operations and Administration at Northern Hills FCU (NHFCU). While her duties are quite similar to her work at Minuteman, she now works with four locations and a larger staff. In addition, she has more of a “hands on” role with adding or improving products and services for Northern Hills FCU members.

“I have fallen in love with the Sturgis community and enjoy working with my colleagues at NHFCU,” says Willms. “I always felt I would work within the financial industry once I graduated from college and have worked for both credit unions and banks. I have learned that there is definitely a different culture and philosophy between credit unions and banks. Credit unions have that down-home, treat-you-like-family mentality. We strive to make a difference and to do our best for our members as we do work for them. It’s all about People helping People. The philosophy of banks is totally opposite. Business customers are their bread and butter; thus you are encouraged to take as little time as necessary with individuals. One of my favorite quotes is from Tom Brokaw: ‘It’s easy to make a buck. It’s a lot tougher to make a difference.’ Credit Unions make a difference.”

Much of what Willms does at the credit union is geared just for that: Making a difference. “NHFCU has really stepped up their game by adding many online and mobile services to their portfolio in the last couple of years,” she shared. Those services now include an expanded website that includes online membership applications, loan applications, and a new mobile app, mobile deposit and card controls, a mobile wallet, and even eSignature for member documents. They have also added other convenience services such as instant issue debit cards and an internal texting service for members. Much of the research and implementation of new programs falls under Marty’s list of responsibilities.

Still, increasing regulation demands have made it harder to make that personal difference for individual members. Further, Willms believes that consumer fraud and scams are going to become an even bigger challenge in the very near future. “Fraud has evolved into much more than just passing counterfeit checks,” she explained. “It has branched out to multiple sources with internet scams, social media cloning, identity theft, data breaches, impersonating trusted government agencies, and so much more. The bad guy is no longer just someone in your community but from anywhere in the world.” She even sees increasing fraud as a trend that is going to eventually evolve into new careers and opportunities as the need for specialized individuals and techniques will be required to compete against this ever-evolving threat.

Besides looking out for her credit union members, Marty has made a difference in every community she has resided in. She served on the Walk America Committee in Yankton, and in Rapid City she served on the “Bank On Rapid City” committee, was a member of the Advisory Board of the Volunteers of America, and was also on the Old West Chapter Board. Now in Sturgis, she is currently on the United Way Board, and can often be found volunteering at various community events such as the annual community appreciation picnic, the Meade County Fair, the Soup and Chili cook-off for the Greater Life Care Foundation, Meals on Wheels, or serving hot chocolate at the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

“I have been fortunate the last few years, and I believe in paying it forward as there was a time when I could use a hand up too. I make it a point to give generously to various organizations in town. Sturgis has a fantastic sense of community and was very welcoming when I moved here. Volunteering is just one small way that I can give back,” she concluded.

On a personal note, Marty has three adult children: Renae is a psychologist and a professor and department head at the University of Wisconsin in Osh Kosh; Randi is an RN in Rapid City and also holds a degree in medical management; and Ryan is a staff sergeant in the US Air Force who is currently stateside, but was previously stationed at Ramstein AFB in Germany. She also has nine grandchildren; three great grandchildren; and one Bengal cat named Missy, that she calls her “alarm clock.”


She also has a very significant other. Tom is retired from the South Dakota Army National Guard. Remember the loan Marty once did for the 1954 Chevy Handyman Wagon? Yes, that’s the guy! He was very appreciative of the loan and apparently, he was head over heels with the deal – and not just the vehicle.


Fast forward, and they are now a couple and show the vehicle together at local car shows. The two also love to travel, hike, snow shoe, hunt, and ride through the Black Hills on their UTV. As a ten-year survivor of ovarian cancer, Marty is not letting any moments go to waste. She is always up for an adventure and trying new things. Luckily, her home in the deep forested hills is always providing opportunities. She once was late to work because a bull elk was blocking both lanes of traffic on her road, and recently, a mountain lion stopped her commute as it crossed directly in front of her.

*Editor’s note: Do you know someone at your credit union or another credit union, either employee or volunteer, who has an interesting story? Nominate someone for the CU Professionals Spotlight by emailing their name and a brief explanation of why they are “Spotlight” material to Shawn Brummer. In addition, if you know someone who should be featured in the Spotlight, we encourage you to also consider nominating them for one of our annual awards. Each year, CUAD honors credit union employees with prestigious awards, including Professional of the Year, Rising Star, and Volunteer of the Year. Award applications are now open! Click here for more details.




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