STCU President/CEO Tom Johnson with Ezra Eckhardt, president-elect.

STCU names new CEO

Familiar face returns to Spokane to lead not-for-profit financial cooperative

[October 16, 2017]

Ezra Eckhardt, a Spokane native with a record of community service, will become president-elect of the region's favorite credit union on October 23, the STCU Board of Directors announced Monday. He becomes president and CEO starting January 1.

"STCU knows the importance of service to both the community and their member-owners, and that is really compelling to me" said Eckhardt, who was president of Spokane-based Sterling Bank when it merged with Umpqua Bank. "The credit union is playing a critical role in shaping the future of Spokane and the region."

Welcome, Ezra!

Watch what happens when STCU employees gather to welcome Ezra Eckhardt on his first day at the office. Video

Eckhardt is only the fifth person to take the helm of STCU, which was founded by Spokane teachers in 1934. He replaces President and CEO Tom Johnson, whose seven-year tenure has seen the credit union nearly double its membership and grow to $2.6 billion in total assets.

Johnson announced earlier this year that he would retire, while remaining active in the community. Among his many other civic activities, he is president-elect of Greater Spokane Incorporated, an organization that Eckhardt also has served.

"Ezra wonít need much introduction among the region's business and community leaders," Johnson said. "Iím gratified that the credit union will be in the hands of someone with a long history of community involvement and leadership with so many organizations doing important work."

West Point Distinguished Graduate

Eckhardt attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he was a Distinguished Graduate (ninth in a class of 975) and earned a degree in European history. He served six years in the U.S. Army, including supporting operations in Rwanda, Bosnia and Liberia, and as a Company Commander at Ft. Benning, Georgia.

After another six years in management at Honeywell and Microsoft, he returned to Spokane in 2004, earned an MBA from Gonzaga University and became Sterling's chief administrative officer.

Eckhardt became Sterlingís president and chief operating officer in 2009. He became executive vice president of operations at Umpqua when the two banks merged in 2014, and he stayed in that position through February 2016.

Since early 2016, Eckhardt has served as chief operating officer at Oregon-based Wave Form Systems Inc., a provider of advanced surgical technologies # commuting from Spokane. Kara Eckhardt works as a guidance counselor in Spokane Public Schools, and the couple's two daughters are second-generation students at Gonzaga Preparatory School.

"We have deep roots in Spokane, going back five generations in my family," said Eckhardt, who was raised near STCUís Main Branch in the Emerson neighborhood. "Weíre invested in the community, and excited about the great things happening here, many of them with the help of STCU."

Eckhardt has been an adjunct professor at GUís Jepson School of Business, and was an invited guest at the U.S. Army War College Commandant's National Security Program in 2016.

A record of service

In recent years, STCU adopted "Here for good" as its brand promise and placed an increased emphasis on community service. That makes the not-for-profit financial cooperative a good fit for Eckhardt, known by many in Spokane for his long involvement with civic organizations.

Serving on the Spokane International Airport board of directors since 2015, Eckhardt chairs its finance committee, helping oversee about $50 million in capital improvements every year. He has served since 2012 on Vision 2030, GSI's planning board for any future expansions at the WSU medical school. Also since 2012, he's served on the board of directors and executive committee for G-Prep.

In addition he has served:

  • On the Downtown Spokane Partnership board of trustees (2013-2016).
  • On GSIís board of trustees and executive committee (2009-2016).
  • On the Habitat for Humanity board directors and executive committee (2006-2012).
  • And as a governor's appointee to SIRTI/Innovate WA (2010-2012).

"Ezra's commitment to Spokane and his proven leadership made him a clear pick for the position," said Dolores Humiston, chairwoman of the STCU Board of Directors. "STCU will continue to take a leadership role in the community, while maintaining the strong business practices that enable us to help meet our members' financial goals."

The Johnson era at STCU

As STCU welcomes Eckhardt, the credit union also is celebrating the career of Tom Johnson, who has had a profound impact on the credit union since joining the board in 1994 and assuming the role of president and CEO on January 1, 2011.

Under Johnsonís leadership, STCU added seven branches and a mobile app; increased consumer and commercial lending; expanded its presence in Idaho to five branches; became the presenting sponsor of the STCU Best of Broadway series; and restored the historic Hutton Building in downtown Spokane. The credit union also has maintained its status as "Best Credit Union" in the Inlanderís annual reader survey, a 12-year run dating to 2005.

An Illinois native, Johnson came to Spokane in 1989 as vice president of business affairs at Whitworth University. During his 17 years at Whitworth, the university saw 70 percent enrollment growth, $60 million in campus construction, and a five-fold endowment increase to $100 million.
Johnson left Whitworth and the STCU Board of Directors in 2006 to become STCUís vice president of administration.

Johnsonís wife, Ruth Ann Johnson, taught English at Saint Georgeís School in Spokane until her retirement. The couple have three sons, three daughters-in-law, and five grandchildren.

STCU growth under Tom Johnson

2010:
88,000 members
400 employees
14 branches
$1.4 billion total assets

2017:
171,000 members
650 employees
21 branches
$2.6 billion total assets

As past chairman and board member of the University District Development Association, Johnson was among the community leaders who worked for legislative approval and funding for a medical school in Spokane, an effort that culminated with this yearís inaugural class at WSUís Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine. 

Johnson is deeply involved in Greater Spokane Incorporated. In addition to being president-elect of GSI, Johnson chairs the organizationís Education Policy Committee while serving on the Public Policy Committee and K-12 Roundtable.

In addition, Johnson co-chairs the Greater Minds initiative, which has set a goal of increasing the percentage of Spokane County residents with college degrees or certificates from 40 percent to 60 percent by 2020. He also serves on the Spokane United Way Campaign Committee, Spokaneís STEM Task Force, and the Mayorís Advisory Council on Economic Vitality.
 
"Tom has had a lasting impact on Whitworth and on STCU," said Humiston, the STCU board chairwoman, who is Associate Vice President for Human Resources at Whitworth University. "We're very happy that Tom will continue his work on behalf of the community."

About STCU

Founded by educators in 1934, STCU is a member-owned, not-for-profit cooperative with more than 171,000 members and $2.6 billion in total assets. Membership is open to anyone who lives, works, worships or attends school in Washington or North Idaho.