When the late Thomas Kenehan of Mountain Bell carried Wytel Federal Credit Union in a small briefcase in the early 1940s, he didn’t realize the impressive proportions the finance venture would reach. Warren Hicks, a charter member, once said, “There wasn’t anything when we started. I don’t think Kenehan even had a desk. Finally we bought one, and it just kept going from there.”
The desk led to a file cabinet. The file cabinet led to a small company office, housed in the bedroom of a benevolent individual, C.R. “Frenchie” Nolette. Eventually, the membership grew to more than 1,000, warranting a legitimate office space for the credit union.
Million dollar mark
Wytel’s assets grew consistently and by 1960, with a membership of 922, assets reached $550,000. Gael Hockersmith, the first manager of the credit union, distributed ceremonial key chains at the annual meeting. Just five years later, in 1965, Wytel emerged as a million-dollar credit union, with assets of $1,136,000.
Over the next several decades, the credit union grew to more than $26 million in assets. As part of this expansion, Western Vista welcomed several other credit unions into its fold: Demem Federal Credit Union (1986), Bucking Horse Federal Credit Union (1986), Casper Natrona Employees Federal Credit Union (1988) and LHHS employees (1991).
What’s in a name?
In July 1995, the board authorized a new name for the credit union to better reflect the diversification of the new field of membership and what was once known as Wytel Federal Credit Union became Western Vista Federal Credit Union.
In July 2002, Western Vista received authorization to add NCUA-approved “underserved area” designation in most of Natrona County, Casper and Cheyenne which allowed people who live, work, worship or attend school in these areas to qualify for membership.
If you build it, they will come
Increased growth led to an extensive addition and remodeling of the Cheyenne building. Then, in August 2005, an additional branch opened on the north side of Cheyenne at 1215 Story Boulevard as a full-service branch with five drive-up lanes, an ATM and full lobby access. Additionally, a new branch was built to replace an aging infrastructure in Casper and featured safe deposit boxes, five drive-up lanes and a large community room.
In 2008, the credit union celebrated tremendous growth, reaching $100 million in assets.
“Our credit union changed over the years, partially by necessity and partially by choice, but always with our members in mind,” said John T. Balser, who served as president and CEO from September 1989 to January 2017.
In December 2020, Western Vista closed on the purchase of the City Center Building located in downtown Cheyenne. Acquisition of the six-story building and parking lot on the corner of Thomes Avenue and 20th Street provides much needed back office space for staff and offers the credit union a downtown presence.
In 2021, the credit union reached $200 million in assets.
Approximately two years after its acquisition of the City Center Building, Western Vista returned to its downtown roots, opening its fourth physical branch on February 3, 2023.
Today, Western Vista Federal has approximately $250 million in assets, serves more than 15,000 members across the country and has branches in Cheyenne and Casper. The credit union offers a full line of consumer, commercial and mortgage services and consistently invests in technology to assist members with their banking needs, regardless of where they live. No one knows for certain what the future will hold, but Western Vista members can rest assured that their credit union will continue to do whatever it takes to serve their financial needs.