US co-operative apex body NCBA CLUSA elects its board

Members re-elected Cornelius Blanding, Juan Fernandez, Esteban Kelly, Emma McCormick and Karen Zimbelman

US co-operative business apex NCBA CLUSA has announced the election of its new board. 

The results were shared at the association’s annual membership meeting on Tuesday by Michelle Schry, nominations committee chair and director of retail support at National Co+op Grocers.

“We were really lucky to have a robust and talented slate of candidates this year,” she said, “and we deeply appreciate everyone who chose to step forward and run for the board.”

Five co-op leaders were re-elected:

Cornelius Blanding

Cornelius Blanding has a wealth of experience including rural, international and co-operative economic development.  He is the executive director of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund, a position he has held since 2015.   

Blanding’s background involves business and project development, management and marketing, with over 25 years of experience serving Black farmers, landowners and limited-resource co-operatives as well as rural communities in the South of the US and across the globe.

Juan Fernandez 

Juan Fernandez is the president and CEO of the Credit Union Association of New Mexico, where he uses his platform to help credit unions to engage with and empower Latino communities.

Having worked in credit unions and co-ops for 20 years, Fernandez has worked across community development, membership development, leadership, government affairs and financial wellness. 

He has also helped draft, advocate for and pass legislation to improve the wellbeing of New Mexicans, such as the passage of a small dollar loan rate cap in New Mexico in 2022, which limited predatory lending in the state.  

Esteban Kelly

Esteban Kelly is executive director of the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives (USFWC), and has worked across issues of multi-racial solidarity and collective ownership, political education, systemic thinking and abolitionism. 

He co-founded AORTA (Anti-Oppression Resource & Training Alliance) worker co-op, multi-stakeholder freelancer co-op Guilded, and Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance (PACA)

Kelly was inducted into the North American Students of Cooperation Hall of Fame in 2011 for his contributions to the movement.

Emma McCormick

Emma McCormick is the senior director of engagement at the National Farmers Union (NFU), an organisation that advocates for family farmers and ranchers, and their communities through education, co-operation and legislation.  

With a background in education, McCormick uses her skills to produce educational programmes to help NFU members better understand farm business management and the co-operative business model.  

Karen Zimbelman

Karen Zimbelman has worked in the co-op sector for over 30 years, including work as a consultant on co-op development, governance, education programs and employee benefits, as well as founding two regional co-op grocers’ associations.

 In May 1994, she received the Cooperative Service Award for dedicated leadership and service to co-ops at the Consumer Cooperative Management Association, and in April 1999 was recognised for outstanding contribution to co-operative education by the Association of Cooperative Educators.  

You can read the full bios of each board member here.