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Community First Credit Union of Santa Rosa selects new CEO

Scott Johnson, a top official at a credit union in Los Angeles County, has been selected as the new chief executive officer of Community First Credit Union.

Johnson, 54, most recently served as chief revenue officer and chief strategy officer at Unify Financial Credit Union in Torrance. He will replace Todd Sheffield, who will step down June 30 after leading the 60,000-member cooperative based in Santa Rosa for almost 20 years.

“We chose Scott, a former chief information officer, for his applied knowledge of technology, and also because of his solid fit with our corporate culture and the local communities we serve,” said Carolyn Welch, chair of the credit union’s board of directors, in a statement.

Scott Johnson has been selected as the new chief executive officer of Community First Credit Union.
Scott Johnson has been selected as the new chief executive officer of Community First Credit Union.

In an interview, Johnson said he appreciated how Sheffield established a strong base under his tenure for the nonprofit institution, especially after it merged almost four years ago with Mendo Lake Credit Union. Under Sheffield’s leadership, Community First increased its assets from $91 million in 2001 to its current $664 million.

“I’m just looking to come in and work with the great team there and continue to strengthen the relationships that we have with our members in these communities,” Johnson said. He added that he wants to be an advocate for the sector in explaining the benefits of membership, especially for those who currently do not have relationships with a bank or credit union.

Community First Credit Union also has 11 branches across the North Coast in some rural areas that big banks have left. “I think a credit union is uniquely positioned to be able to make inroads in those markets … especially with the underserved,” Johnson said. Before serving in the credit union sector, Johnson was chief technology officer of Pacific Life Insurance’s Corporate Division.

“It’s got to start with a foundation of trust that the institution is actually there for their economic well-being and not the other way around. I’m not sure that the big banks are perceived that way,” he added.

Johnson said one area to explore in the future is home mortgages, especially with buyers attempting to secure a down payment in the Bay Area region with high housing costs. He noted there are some financial-tech providers that are developing products to make it easier for first-time homebuyers and he would explore such partnerships to see if it would be feasible for Community First. “We would certainly want to look at those moving forward,” he said.

Community First also recently started its “420 accounts” that serve cannabis business clients with banking services.

You can reach Staff Writer Bill Swindell at 707-521-5233 or bill.swindell@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @BillSwindell.

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