Kristi Porter: She took a chance in business, and now serves as bank president
Portrait 2011 — Volume 2: Hot Right Now
Back in 1980, in her last year at Grand Junction High School, Kristi Porter took a business-related class. Even though Porter graduated that year, she never quite left the class behind.
The class landed her in a training position at what was then the Mesa County Teachers Federal Credit Union.
Today, Porter, 48, heads the credit union, now called the Western Rockies Federal Credit Union, as president and chief executive officer, supervising an organization with nearly 15,000 members, four branches and a headquarters, and more than $100 million in assets.
“I think my title was receptionist-slash-teller,” Porter said of her first job with the credit union.
Though her original plan was to be a teacher, her decision to stay at the credit union wasn’t so much a rejection of teaching as it was an affirmation of the work she found herself doing.
“I loved the credit-union philosophy and I enjoyed dealing with the members,” she said.
Porter liked the business so much that she financed a car through the credit union so she could drive to work from school.
Working the teller line was the most fun in her early days and the day-to-day contact with members is what she misses the most, Porter said.
“I’ve been here so long that some people I dealt with forever and ever, that’s who they want to talk to,” Porter said.
As her graduation approached, Porter had to make a decision.
“They said they would love to have me stay,” Porter said, “and so I did. I never thought about not doing it.”
Her early exposure to the business provided her a wide range of experiences within the credit union.
“We had to do everything,” she said, “so you learn a lot when you have to wear many hats.”
All those hats made her a logical choice to move up the ladder, said Janet Johnson, chairwoman of the Western Rockies board.
“Part of it was because of her experience and her knowledge of the credit union,” Johnson said.
Part of it also is temperament.
“Kristi is very outgoing, a very steady person with a good head on her shoulders,” said Johnson, who first met the 13-year-old Porter at church. “She gets along with everyone.”
Porter’s outlook matches that of the credit union approach — careful and studied.
Her idea of a pleasant time away from the office is time spent at home with her family.
She’s the mother of three: Phillip, 24; Emily, 20; and Katelyn, 10.
“I think I enjoy Katelyn even more because I know how fast they grow,” Porter said.
More to the point, she’s most fond of being at home, reading and perhaps some swimming.
She likes country music, but Country Jam is something she did years ago.
Skiing or snowboarding?
“I’m too cautious,” she said. “I over think.”
That cautious approach is just what the board of the credit union wants, Johnson said.
Porter has completed a three-year management school offered by the Credit Union National Association and is set to keep Western Rockies on the right path, Johnson said.
Porter was involved when the Mesa County Teachers Federal Credit Union changed its name to the one it sports today, as well as when it merged with Burning Mountain Federal Credit Union in Garfield County.
She also was instrumental in completing the work done by her predecessors and getting the credit union’s Fruita branch open.
Now she is facing a West Slope economy that has slipped into the doldrums and it’s her job to makes sure the credit union stays going, as it has now for 75 years.
“The best thing to do is stay focused on what we do best,” Porter said. “The main thing is to keep our services and keep our costs where they need to be.
“We’re very careful.”