History of Maine Highlands Federal Credit Union f/k/a Dexter Regional Federal Credit Union f/k/a Dexter Shoe Credit Union
In April of 1966, through the combined effort of the management and employees of the Dexter Shoe Company, Dexter Shoe Federal Credit Union was organized. For the first four years of its existence, the credit union operated within the Dexter Shoe factory. The books and records were kept at the home of the Treasurer, Frank J. Perry. The first chairperson of the Board of Directors was Dorice Tremblay who served along with Ethel Harvey, Helen Foley, Lloyd Wood, Norman Kinney, Kenneth Pooler and Frank Perry.
By 1970, the credit union had evolved from an organization of shoe workers on payroll deduction to a financial institution with its roots planted firmly in the community. In July of 1970, Dexter Shoe Federal Credit Union instituted a charter change to encompass the towns of Dexter, Ripley, Garland and Exeter and changed its name to Dexter Regional Federal Credit Union.
Early in 1971, Dexter Regional Federal Credit Union was informed that the Corinna Community Federal Credit Union was planning to liquidate. Through the efforts of Dexter Regional FCU, Corinna Community FCU and the Maine Credit Union League, Dexter Regional Federal Credit Union’s charter was again changed to include the Town of Corinna. This change allowed Dexter Regional FCU to merge the assets of Corinna Community FCU with its own.
By 1973, it had become apparent that the mobile home across from Dexter Shoe that housed the credit union was bulging at the seams from the new business. The Board of Directors voted to acquire land on the corner of Main and Lincoln Streets with plans for a new building. Stankevitz Construction Company was hired and by August of 1974 the new building was complete.
The next big step taken by the credit union was in September of 1977. At that time, Dexter Regional FCU moved into the technology arena. Computer terminals were installed and the Maine Credit Union League Data Center was utilized for all of the credit union’s data processing. This step allowed the credit union to begin offering share draft (checking) accounts in June of 1978. Several changes, including more counter space and a second entrance, were also made to the building during this time.
In August of 1983, the Adds PC/11 was added to the technology used by the credit union. This allowed for the automation of the general ledger, payroll processing and the production of financial reports through the multiplan system. Also, in the same year, the credit union added the Towns of Cambridge, Harmony, Guilford and Sangerville to its community charter. The Board of Directors was also conscience of the fact that space had once again become limited at the credit union due to the added fields of membership.
Therefore, in 1984, Bowman-Littlefield Construction was hired to double the size of the Dexter building. During this year, the Towns of Parkman and Dover-Foxcroft were added to the charter as well.
Because of the growing membership base in the Guilford area, the Board of Directors voted to open a branch office in Guilford in 1986. A three-year lease was signed to utilize the former “Gold Nugget Restaurant” as the credit union’s new branch location. Within a year, the credit union had opened 1100 new share accounts. It became obvious to the Board of Directors that this location would not be able to accommodate the space that would be needed to service the membership. Plans were made to begin looking for a suitable location for the branch.
In 1987, the credit union once again amended its charter. This time, it was to add all of the towns from Sebec to Greenville. Land was also purchased on Hudson Avenue in Guilford as a future site for a new branch office.
1988 was another big construction year for the credit union. An addition was completed by Perry Construction Company to the main office in Dexter. This addition added one-third more space to the main floor, allowing the loan department that was currently being housed in the basement of the credit union to move upstairs. The addition also created more storage area for the credit union.
In the fall of 1988, construction began on a new branch office in Guilford. Perry Construction Company was once again hired for this project. The building was completed by the spring of 1989 and officially opened its doors in April of that same year.
Frank J. Perry, President/CEO of Dexter Regional Federal Credit Union for 23 years, officially retired in March of 1989. During his years as president, the credit union grew to $16 million in assets. Helmi Perry, who had served as the vice-president along side Frank, was named interim president until a successor was found. In August of 1989, Helmi Perry officially retired and in November of that same year Rhonda (Knowles) Taylor was chosen as the new president.
In 1992, the Board of Directors was approached by several members of the Dover-Foxcroft area, asking for a branch office to be located in that town. It was decided to lease office space from Moosehead Manufacturing since parking was a major concern. H & H Construction was hired to do the renovations and in September of 1993, the Dover-Foxcroft branch was opened.
In June of 1994, Dexter Regional FCU underwent another major technological change. The old data processing system was replaced with VISION. By making this transition, Dexter Regional FCU was able to speed up its transaction processing time. This meant faster service to the members and more volume could be handled with the same number of employees. It also opened the doors for the credit union to begin the process of offering debit cards and access to ATMs for the members.
In 1995, the Board of Directors began researching the feasibility of another branch office to be located in Greenville. Again, parking was a primary concern in finding a suitable location. After an extensive search, it was decided to lease space from the Muzzy family in Greenville. In the spring of 1997, a small office was constructed at Indian Hill Plaza and was designed specifically for the credit union. The Greenville branch officially opened its doors in October of 1997.
By this time, it was becoming obvious to the Board of Directors that the main office in Dexter was no longer big enough to handle the growth that had happened over the last several years. Discussions began on the viability of expanding the main office once more and whether or not this was financially feasible. It was determined that it would cost more to renovate the current facilities than to build new. At this point, the Directors established a plan to build a new main office in 2002.
In January of 1999, the Town of Rockwood was added to the credit union charter. This town was added as a low-income community and in June of 1999, Dexter Regional Federal Credit Union was able to receive low-income designation as a whole. This designation gained certain rights and benefits for the credit union.
In the spring of 1999, two pieces of adjoining property to the main office in Dexter were purchased. One building was torn down that summer, with the other scheduled to be torn down in the summer of 2001. This purchase was made in anticipation of a new building in the future.
In August of 2000, Dexter Regional FCU once again expanded its field of membership. The charter change added all of Piscataquis County, along with Charleston and Stetson.
By the end of 2000, Dexter Regional Federal Credit Union had grown to more than $40 million in assets and was ranked the twenty-fifth largest in the State out of eighty credit unions.
In 2001, adjoining property was purchased at the Guilford office location. It was arranged with the local fire department to burn down the house on that property to make room for a new parking lot and drive-through, which was completely re-done in preparation for an ATM to be located at this office.
In the spring of 2002, ground was broken for a new 11,800 square foot main office in Dexter. All of the site preparation, including the blasting of ledge, was completed by the fall. In the spring of 2003, the foundation was poured. By September of 2003, the new building was completely framed and weather-tight. In October, Dexter’s ATM was moved to the Guilford office. And on December 15, 2003, the new main office of the Credit Union opened its doors to the members. The credit union had grown to over $49 million in assets.
On January 1, 2005, Dexter Regional Federal Credit Union officially changed its name to Maine Highlands Federal Credit Union. This name was chosen by the Board of Directors to better represent the Credit Union’s field of membership.
On July 30, 2007 a lone person who entered the building through the parking lot door robbed the Guilford office of Maine Highlands FCU at gunpoint. The gunman fled into the woods behind the branch office.
In May of 2008, Maine Highlands purchased an old house and lot on the main street in Brownville. This lot will be used for a new branch office of the Credit Union. Estimated time to begin construction will be the spring of 2010.
In September of 2010, the Brownville branch of Maine Highlands FCU officially opened its doors to the public.
In August of 2012, Maine Highlands FCU purchased a building located at 955 W Main Street in Dover-Foxcroft for the future site of a new branch office. In the fall of 2012, the current structure on the property was torn down. In the spring of 2013, construction began on the new building. And, in January of 2014, the new branch office opened to the members. By choosing this location, MHFCU was able to include drive up teller service, a drive up ATM and a drive up night deposit, making it much more convenient for the membership. At this point in time, the Credit Union had grown to over $94 million in asset size.
In the fall of 2014, MHFCU did major reconstruction at the Guilford office. The inside of the building was remodeled to be more in line with the look of the other offices owned by the Credit Union. Along with this, the parking area was completely revamped. The size of the parking lot was enlarged to accommodate more vehicles and to provide easier entrance/exit for the members.
Also in 2014, Maine Highlands FCU purchased the old Border Trust building in Greenville. This structure was torn down and became the sight of the new Greenville office. Construction is began early spring 2016 and the Credit Union relocated by late fall 2016.
At year-end of December 2015, Maine Highlands FCU had grown to over One Hundred Million Dollars ($100,000,000.00) in asset size.
In April of 2016, Maine Highlands FCU broke ground for the new Greenville branch office on Pritham Avenue in Greenville Jct. The project continued through the summer months and the new office was opened to the members in September.
In December of 2017, Maine Highlands Federal Credit Union again expanded its charter. The Credit Union’s field of membership now encompasses all of Piscataquis, Penobscot and Somerset Counties.
In the spring of 2018, ground was broken for a 5500 sq. ft. addition to the main office in Dexter. The original building design was developed with the future of the “ell” that was added. The addition was completed in October of 2018, bringing the total square footage of the main office to 16,700 sq. ft.
Also, in the spring of 2018, Maine Highlands FCU purchased an old restaurant in the Town of Canaan. This lot will be the future sight of its fifth branch office. The restaurant was burned down by the local fire department in July and the lot was cleaned up and leveled off in October of 2018. Construction is expected to begin in April of 2019.
On November 12, 2019, Maine Highlands FCU officially opened its doors in Canaan. The approximate 2080 square foot building houses three offices and a bigger lobby area than other branches. Four employees now call this office home. In addition, a large garage was built behind the new office to provide additional storage space for miscellaneous needs.
In March of 2020, the Credit Union, as well as the rest of the country, had its operations turned upside down when the COVID 19 pandemic hit. We immediately had to activate our pandemic plan. Office lobbies were closed and members had to access services via drive ups and technology services. Each day, we were watching the State of Maine CDC guidance as well as following all emergency executive orders. The days were stressful and drive up lines wound around the buildings. One thing that we did learn through it all was that we were prepared and were able to meet our members’ needs.
In July of 2020, Maine Highlands FCU made its largest donation ever to Piscataquis County. A check for $145,000 was presented to the County Commissioners for the purchase of the old Key Bank building in Guilford. The Sheriff’s Dept. was in desperate need of more space and had been searching for a way to expand. The purchase was being presented to the residents as a bond question on the ballot, but MHFCU chose to show our support for local law enforcement during a time with so much civil unrest. This donation also benefited all taxpayers in the County as well since funds would not need to be borrowed to support the purchase.
In June of 2022, Rhonda Taylor announced that she would be retiring in June of 2023 after over 36 years of dedicated service to the credit union. During her years as President/CEO, the credit union increased in asset size from about $18 million to more than $182 million. In January of 2023, the Board of Directors named Maria Wooten as the new President of Maine Highlands FCU. Maria Wooten added CEO to her title in June of 2023 following Rhonda Taylor’s retirement.
Maria L. Wooten, CUBLP