Since it was established in 1979, Coast Central Credit Union has grown into the largest member-owned financial institution in the region, with over 76,000 members and 11 branches in Del Norte, Humboldt and Trinity Counties. Photo by Andrew Goff.


After almost a decade without a contested election for its board of directors, Coast Central Credit Union is in the midst of its second race in the last two years. Ballots have been sent to the financial institution’s 76,000 members, who will have a chance to decide who will represent their fiscal interests on the board of directors. 

Coast Central holds an election at the beginning of each year for three of the nine seats on the board but until recently the incumbents regularly won re-election by default because they were the only candidates running for the available positions.

That changed last year when a trio of first-time candidates, dubbed the “Members Voice” slate, challenged the incumbents for a seat on the board for the first time in nine years. 

This year, five people are running for four open seats, including incumbents Terry Anne Meierding, Ron Rudebock, Matthew Wakefield and Dane Valadao, all of whom are endorsed by the nominating committee, and first-time candidate Carrie Peyton-Dahlberg. 

When asked what prompted her to run, Peyton-Dahlberg, a former reporter for the Sacramento Bee, editor of the North Coast Journal and co-founder of the Humboldt Journalism Project, said she was inspired by the “Members Voice” slate, which advocated for increased member involvement and wider-ranging community investments during last year’s election.

Peyton-Dahlberg | Contributed

“As I [looked into] the process of applying, I realized, well, I really could bring things to this board that I think the board would find helpful,” Peyton-Dahlberg told the Outpost in a recent phone interview. “I’m not running against any one director – even though the voting members will have to choose among us – I’m just running for some ideas. … I think [Coast Central] is a good credit union, and it can be made better … through fairly small tweaks.”

If elected, Peyton-Dahlberg said she would like to reshape what the annual membership meeting looks like to better accommodate member participation. “Let’s have Coast Central hold at least two meetings a year when members can ask the board of directors questions and suggest board actions.” 

One specific area that could be improved upon is the organization’s fee structure, she said.

In 2022, Coast Central collected $4.78 million in fees for overdrafts and nonsufficient funds, according to a report from the state Department of Financial Protection and Innovation. Those fees made up over seven percent of Coast Central’s total income. The same report includes information for Compass Community Credit Union, Redwood Capital Bank and Tri Counties Bank, all of which collected less than two percent of their total income from overdraft and insufficient funds fees.

“Frankly, overdraft and insufficient funds fees generally ended up getting paid by people who are having other money problems,” Peyton-Dahlberg said. “If those fees are disproportionately high, does that mean, as an institution, that you’re kicking people when they’re down? … I don’t know what the arguments are for keeping them high.”

Coast Central doles out hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants and scholarships each year. Since 2008, Coast Central has awarded more than $2 million in grants – ranging from $3,000 to $25,000 per applicant and up to $150,000 in each biannual round of funding – to local non-profit organizations through its Community Investment Program.

“They look like wonderful projects, but I would like to hear from members about how they weigh the importance of giving more community grants in the context of various other expenses and revenues at Coast Central,” she said.

Peyton-Dahlberg also spoke in favor of changing Coast Central’s election and campaign rules “to allow for more discourse” between candidates and members. Under the current guidelines, candidates may submit a candidate statement of 250 words or less. However, “formal campaigns” are “strongly discouraged,” according to the Election Campaign and Petition Rules:

In the interests of fairness and diplomacy among all volunteer candidates for election to the Board of Directors or the Supervisory Committee, formal campaigns and/or campaigning by candidates through organized rallies, traditional and non-traditional media sources and promotional literature in candidate-produced brochures, flyers, newspapers, social media ads, etc. or through radio, television, or electronic communications are strongly discouraged. Use of the Coast Central Credit Union logo marketing materials is prohibited.

“I’ve been told that the rules in the last election were much simpler, and they didn’t include this bit about strongly discouraging campaigning,” Peyton-Dahlberg said. “This rule has the potential to do a lot of damage to credit union members. As soon as I learned about it, I became passionately interested in changing it.”

The Outpost obtained a copy of the election guidelines that were provided to last year’s candidates and, sure enough, there’s nothing in there that discourages formal campaigning.

“I can’t say that last year’s election caused this, but I can say last year’s election happened first and then this happened,” Peyton-Dahlberg said, noting correlation does not necessarily indicate causation. “I did talk to one of the board members who said part of the motivation for [the new rule] is that the board didn’t want some big money person to come in and buy a bunch of full-page ads … and essentially use the money to buy a position to change bank policy.”

If that’s the case, a rule limiting campaign spending would be more effective than limiting what candidates are allowed to share with Coast Central’s membership, she said.

“The potential detriment is [that] members don’t get to hear ideas … and I really worry about low-information voters,” she continued. “Maybe there’s one thing that a member really cares about and whoever’s running thought, ‘Oh, I only have 250 words to describe the most important things to me and I also like this thing, but it doesn’t fit.’ If the candidate then has no other opportunity or is discouraged from using any other opportunities for outreach, that member never even learned that this candidate might be a perfect fit with what they care about.”

Candidate information should be made available at each Coast Central branch, she continued. After the election wraps up and the votes are tallied, “members should have access to the final vote count.”

“Currently, Coast Central just names the winners,” she said. “In the last election, there were seven people running for three seats. The names of the three winners were announced, but the numbers were never given out for who got how many votes. That became relevant later in the year because at least two people who didn’t win applied for board seats when various people resigned. … I mean, vote counts from a previous election should not be the only factor in selecting a board member, but why would you close your eyes to the potentially useful data about members?”

Peter Pennekamp, a former Coast Central board member, shared Peyton-Dahlberg’s concerns.

“In some regards, Coast Central is one of the best organizations up here,” he told the Outpost. “But in other regards, I think it’s barely doing what it should do.”

Pennekamp has served on “dozens of boards” over the last 30 years, and in that time, he said he has “never encountered a [board] that was more hostile to new ideas.”

“[The organization] is performing at its core function admirably,” When I resigned, people said, ‘Are you going to drop [your membership]?’ and I said, ‘No! I like this organization!’ I think that it’s underperforming in its responsibility to its members. … I resigned because I felt like management and the protectionist board is willing to go to any lengths to keep anything from being discussed.”

The Outpost reached out to each of the incumbents for additional comment on their candidacy. Ron Rudeback, the board’s current chairman, was the only incumbent who returned our request for comment. 

Rudebock, who has served on the board for the last 43 years, was reluctant to talk about his candidacy, but he did emphasize the importance of having a variety of perspectives on the board of directors. 

“I think it’s great to have new members on there to get new ideas, fresh perspectives but it’s also good to have some senior members on the board to provide historical context,” he said in a recent phone interview. “I think it’s good to have a balance between the two.”

Rudebock spoke very highly of Coast Central, noting that “it is an incredible institution” and praising its staff and leadership for “working hard to serve all our members.”

As for the remaining incumbents, Matthew Wakefield is a Crescent City-based CPA and co-owner of SeaQuake Brewing. “I have an intimate understanding of our area’s economic landscape and the financial challenges our residents encounter,” he wrote in his candidate statement. “My local roots fuel my commitment to aligning the credit union’s policies with the best interests of the communities we serve.”

Wakefield said his hands-on experience as a local business owner has provided him with “practical insights into the financial needs of small enterprises” and a “valuable perspective for shaping the credit union’s support for local businesses.”

Terry Anne Meierding believes her 38-year experience as an educator at Burnt Ranch School District has provided “the skill set, objectivity, and patience [needed] to be a beneficial addition to the Board of Directors Team,” according to her statement. “I have served on county committees to assist with the implementation of state and federal guidelines for the school district and acknowledgeable of government processes.”

Lifelong Humboldt County resident and local developer Dane Valadao said his experience in commercial lending and finance makes him a good candidate for the board. “I have a strong work ethic and my decision-making skills are very level-headed and logic-based,” he wrote in his statement.

The Outpost sent Coast Central a request for additional candidate information earlier this week. We asked for a digital copy of the candidates’ statements and their contact information. Colleen Toste, vice president of marketing and communications, said Coast Central could not provide the candidates’ contact information due to “privacy reasons.” She did not provide a digital copy of the candidates’ statement.

We sent a follow-up request asking how long each of the incumbents has served on the board of directors. Toste responded: “If the candidates chose to include that in their Candidate Statements, it’s there. If not, we are not able to share that information.” 


If you are a member and haven’t sent in your completed ballot, you’ll want to do that sooner than later. Ballots must be received at the Wisconsin address where they are counted by Wednesday, Jan. 31. Ballots received after this date will be void.

Election results will be announced at the next annual member meeting, which is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 22 at 6 p.m. at Coast Central’s member services branch at 2650 Harrison Avenue in Eureka.

More information can be found here.