With a thick beard and love of the outdoors, John Himmel, vice president of consumer lending and collections at Bridgewater Credit Union, knows he doesn’t fit the stereotypical mold of a financial industry employee.
“I rarely wear a suit. … My hobbies are kayaking and fishing. I hate golf. I don’t think that I really fit that typical banker look,” Himmel said. That’s “because I’m not a banker. I’m a credit union guy. It makes a difference.”
Himmel entered the credit union industry in the early 1980s at the now-shuttered Wollaston Credit Union, and he has spent the last 26 years working at Bridgewater Credit Union. During his nearly four decades in the industry, Himmel has watched the communities he’s worked for transforms themselves.
“When I got here [Bridgewater], it was a fairly rural community. It’s not anymore. When I started at Wollaston Credit Union [in Quincy] … it was an industrial town, a manufacturing town, and there is no manufacturing in Quincy anymore,” he said. “But still, [as a credit union] you’re a community lender, you’re a community servicer. That feeling has remained the same, even while the communities have changed.”
Himmel said the ability to make a difference “on a local level” is one of the best parts about his work.
“Credit unions are still, in a lot of cases, the last lender available to people … We’re just a little less conservative in our approach to lending and in our approach in getting the money back. We don’t set a collections formula and say, ‘One size fits all,’” Himmel said. “Everyone’s problem is individual. And the best solution to an individual problem is an individual solution.”
Himmel’s industry talents have long impressed those who have worked with him.
“He is the best in the business,” Brian McCormick, senior sales manager at Jack Conway Real Estate, wrote in his nomination of Himmel. “I have been a credit union director and vice chair of a credit union over 20 years, and nobody has the ability of John.”
Of course, more conventional credit union skills aside, this not-so-typical finance guy has also earned a reputation for a less conventional skill: rescuing turtles.
As part of his work, Himmel sometimes travels to inspect properties, always with a designated turtle box in tow. “In Southeastern Massachusetts in the spring, there’s lots of turtles on the road, and I stop and I pick them up because it bothers me when they get run over,” Himmel explained.
He later takes the turtles to nearby ponds, but not always before returning to the credit union. “Employees will look in, hear them scratching around and say, ‘Uh huh, Mr. Himmel found some more turtles.’”
In fact, most of the turtles he finds on the road – spotted turtles and eastern box turtles – are at risk of becoming endangered species, Himmel said. Still, he’d likely pick them up regardless. His entire career has been about helping communities – and that includes their turtles.