[caption id="attachment_230250" align="alignleft" width="251"] Dover Federal Credit Union President & CEO Janell Upton. | PHOTO COURTESY OF DOVER FCU[/caption]
DOVER — Janell Upton has been at the helm at Dover Federal Credit Union for a few months now, and it seems like every day she’s reminded what a good fit the decision was.“I have told my staff I kind of feel like I’m drinking from a firehose some days, but it’s been really great so far,” Upton told the Delaware Business Times. “Throughout the interview process, Delaware did feel like a rural environment with cities close by, but what I didn’t anticipate was the welcome I would receive here. I have a lot to learn about the area, and it’s important to me, because it’s my new home.”Upton was announced as the next Dover FCU president and CEO at the end of 2022, replacing Chaz Rzewnicki who departed to serve as the leader of Vibe Credit Union in Michigan. Dover FCU is a $628.4 million asset credit union and is the second largest in terms of assets in the state, per Delaware Business Times records.A Montana native, Upton first started in financial services with a local community bank and later transitioned to Sky Federal Credit Union in 2001. It was there, she said, where she “found her calling.”“It didn’t really take me long to figure out that financial services was my field, and that the philosophy behind federal credit unions was meaningful to me,” she said.In 2006, she worked at Alaska USA Federal Credit Union in Anchorage, ranked among the top in the sector. By the time she left, 11 years later, she was a senior executive who managed more than 80 branches. After her children grew up, Upton decided she needed a change of scenery and became executive vice president of the $1.5 billion South Florida Educational Federal Credit Union in Miami. The organization rebanded as EdFed.While she was considering the last, major move of her career, Upton wanted to lead an organization on the East Coast, ideally near Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. But the history of Dover FCU and its growth trajectory also intrigued her.“The fact that it was founded in the Dover Air Force Base, and you could track that growth into the community. But this particular credit union believes in diversity, equity and inclusion — and its focus and plans on where to go with that is also important to me,” she said.Dover has a population that is roughly 42% Black, and Rzewnicki focused his time on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. Upton, the first female leader of the central Delaware credit union, wants to continue down that path and gear more products to its communities. This would also include expanding financial literacy education and first-time home-buyer programs as well.“Delaware is facing a housing crisis, and I do think that’s something that’s critically important and we’re working with the realty network and other organizations to see what we can do to help solve this issue,” she said. “I would say that our federal credit unions specialized in the low-to moderate income bracket, and that’s where we want to continue to serve, because I believe that is where the need is.”While Upton has hit the ground running in the last couple of weeks, she has also been looking at starting a long-term planning process of what Dover FCU will look like in five and 10 years. But in the next year or so, she hopes to better position the branches for continued community engagement.“I’d like to see more of an engagement strategy built out to where we are really more involved in the community at different levels,” Upton said. “It’s also important to me – professionally and personally – that we continue to build our organization across all diversity channels. If we made further inroads there in the next 12 months, I’d be thrilled.”
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