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Meet our Board members and learn about our Board committees.

Board members

Leslie Ackerman

Leslie was employed at Alternatives from 2002 to 2015 in the Business CENTS small business education program, for 10 of those years as the program’s director. During that time, she worked with thousands of entrepreneurial clients from our community, both Alternatives members and non-members. She has been deeply engaged first-hand with Alternatives’ Community Programs and have an intimate understanding of how they impact lives and further our mission.

It was this mission that motivated Leslie to join Alternatives in 2000, when she began her own microenterprise and sought a financial institution that matched her values. When she joined the staff two years later, she knew she had found a “home” to stay for a long while. In 13 years on the staff, Leslie had the great opportunity to collaborate with amazing, devoted colleagues who put real heart into their work.

Leslie left her position at Alternatives in December 2015 to pursue her own private practice coaching and consulting small businesses. She has remained deeply involved in community matters of building a sustainable and just economy, serving on the Economic Development Committee of the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency since 2010 and co-founding Local First Ithaca in 2008, among other activities.

Brian DeYoung, Chair

Brian has been a Credit Union member since 1984, when he lived in California, and a long term member of Alternatives FCU.  He have an extensive professional background in real estate, housing, construction and related fields. He has a long time personal background of community service, including eight years as a volunteer at Willard Drug Treatment Center. He believes the Credit Union has many beneficial programs that he hopes to help spread the word about as well as build the member base. Real Estate is a large economic force, and he believes his lifetime background of building, designing, and selling homes makes him an asset to the board. 

Jessa Edwards

Jessa believes the services and programs offered at Alternatives are particularly important for those in Ithaca who are underserved and marginalized, and giving community members a say in guiding and expanding those offerings is truly vital.

As a resident here since 2006, she has worked variously as library staff, art director, graphic and web designer, and fine artist, and has at different points experienced both financial precarity and relative comfort. Jessa has chaired or been a contributing member of various Cornell University Library committees and working groups, has volunteered as a Greenstar super worker, and is currently dedicating organizing energy to Artist Alley, a growing arts community on South Hill.

Year to year as Jessa has put down deeper roots in Ithaca, she's relished the many idyllic aspects of our little town, but its inequities and complacencies have also become increasingly apparent to her. Jessa is interested in how Alternatives can best reach out to and meaningfully include those communities most often harmed by less scrupulous financial institutions.

Michele Johnson, Treasurer

I’m pleased to be a candidate for the Alternatives’ Board of Directors.  A native of Elmira, I returned after college to raise my daughters with the same “village” that raised me. Contributing to my community is an important part of my life, both personally and professionally.

My professional background spans 30 years of accounting, administrative, HR, and community advocate experience.  The experiences and skills I’ve acquired working in primarily nonprofit organizations in conjunction with my education provide a strong foundation from which I contribute to the community.  I serve on several community boards including the Elmira City School Board on which I chair the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee.

Working in Corning Incorporated’s Office of Racial Equality and Social Unity, my focus is to address racial inequities and socioeconomic disparities in communities where our employees live and work.  My primary responsibility is creating strategic and sustainable initiatives to improve resources and access to underrepresented groups which was my introduction to Alternatives’ community focused programs. I introduce Alternatives’ and the transformational mission to build wealth and create economic opportunity for underserved people and communities to others at every opportunity.

Rebuilding the health, wealth, and social outcomes of our communities is crucial to overcoming the coronavirus crisis and I know Alternatives’ is integral to that effort.  I look forward to the opportunity to contribute to the change Alternatives’ is making in our communities.

Amina Omari, Vice Chair

I became an Alternatives member in 2005, seeking relief from predatory banking practices. At Alternatives, I found an institution with deep community roots that has supported me through many financial and personal changes.

Especially during this coronavirus crisis, it’s clear that our strength is in each other, and the community we continue to build. As a community, we will have challenging work ahead of us to get through the current crisis, and to rebuild our local economy in an equitable and sustainable way. I believe that Alternatives will be an important part of that process, and I look forward to the opportunity to contribute to its mission in this consequential time.

A bit about me: I worked at Gimme! Coffee for over thirteen years, starting as a barista and growing into the roles of Director of Training, Director of Communications, and finally Chief Operating Officer. As the COO of a small and growing business, I wore every hat (training, marketing, sales, HR, finance, regulatory compliance, product development, and more) and helped to build a mission of community, sustainability, and local collaboration. Since December 2018, I have been directing a new Food Business Incubation Program (FoodBIP), which helps food manufacturers start and grow their businesses, and aims to create economic opportunity for under-served people and communities throughout the region. In this work, I’ve collaborated with a wide variety of entrepreneurs throughout the region, both rural and urban, and I’ve seen first-hand the importance of local credit to building a strong and sustainable community.

Over the years, I have also worked to sustain community organizations. From 2000 through 2011, I served on the Board of the Telluride Association, a nonprofit that creates democratic educational experiences. There, I served on the financial committee that oversaw the Association’s endowments and budgets, and led an effort to improve the diversity of its summer scholarship programs. Presently, I serve on the Board of the Ithaca Shakespeare Company, a local community theatre organization. I bring a systems thinking approach; a strong background in training, facilitation, and mentorship; and a deep commitment to equitable economic opportunity and sustainable community.

Christopher Teitelbaum, Secretary

My name is Christopher Teitelbaum. I am almost a native of Ithaca, having arrived via adoption at the age of 7. I graduated from Ithaca College studying Cinema Production and Politics, primarily in a bid to learn how to tell stories. I taught acting at the local Meisner Acting Studio for ten years as an assistant and then co-teacher to the Director and Founder, Eliza Van Cort. I am also a Founder and the Executive Director of the House of Ithaqua, a local theater production group into its fifth season.

During the day I enjoy helping some of Tompkins County neediest as the Milieu Manager at Cayuga Addiction Recovery Services Inpatient Program. I take seriously the opportunity to advocate for those individuals at the heart of the Credit Union’s mission statement. I take it to heart that too many of our neighbors lack the financial ability to dream outside their immediate needs, let alone make those dreams a reality. Alternatives is an irreplaceable partner in changing that paradigm and I appreciate the opportunity to continue to be part of that work.

Leonardo Vargas-Méndez

I recently retired as the Executive Director of the Cornell Public Service Center (CPSC), and as such, a member of Cornell University’s Division of Student and Academic Services’ senior management team. I was also Co-Principal Investigator for the Cornell Upward Bound Program and Co-Director of the Faculty Fellows-in-Service learning programs. I served as Cornell University’s liaison to the New York Campus Compact Advisory Board, and a member of the founding Board of this statewide higher education membership institution. I was also honored as a Carl L. Becker House Faculty Fellow at Cornell University.

In addition to my Cornell responsibilities, I have served on the boards of many Tompkins County non-profit agencies and governmental committees, including the Board of Trustees of the Tompkins County Public Library; the Founding Board of the Latino Civic Association of Tompkins County Inc.; the Ithaca Alliance for Community Empowerment; the Advisory Board of the Suicide Prevention and Crisis Service of Tompkins County; the Tompkins County Workers Rights Center; the Board of the Tompkins County Human Services Coalition; the City of Ithaca’s Board of Public Works; and the Board of Planning and Development; the Board of the Tompkins County Human Rights Commission; and the Board of Planned Parenthood of Tompkins County. I am currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Tompkins Community Action, and also a member of ATTAC International, Chile’s chapter.

My family and I have been a long time members of the Alternatives community and honored to be a senior board member. I believe in the community development mission of the Alternatives and its active advocacy for equity in the distribution of societal wealth and an equitable access to bank services.

Leon Holden

Leon Holden (he/him) is the Director of Human Resources at Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services, and the first Human Resources professional in the history of the non-profit organization. In addition to his 7+ years of HR experience, he holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science, from Brooklyn College, and is a Society for Human Resource Management Certified Professional (SHRM-CP). 

Leon is currently a sitting board member for FoodNet Meals on Wheels (PEP Committee; Chair) and the Diversity Consortium of Tompkins County. In addition to his membership on several other committees throughout Tompkins County. The Brooklyn, NY native is a recent transplant to the Ithaca community and has been a resident since 2021. He is committed to fostering a culture of equity, inclusion, and belonging among his staff members and within the communities that he serves.

Veronica Johnson

I began collaborating with Alternatives’ Business Support services after co-founding Civil Advocacy Project, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation. Through both the Civil Advocacy Project and my collaboration with Alternatives, I have provided free and affordable access to legal consulting for small businesses and micro-entrepreneurs. I continue to be inspired by the level of care and support Alternatives provides to small businesses. I grew up in one of the small communities that surround Ithaca, the kind of place where 1960’s era grain silos are scattered over the landscape. After law school, I worked at a small firm in Central Pennsylvania for a few years. However, I wanted to live closer to my parents as my children became toddlers, and moved back to the Ithaca area. I was able to get a job at a contracting office in Cornell, and began the long process of founding Civil Advocacy Project, where I wear many hats: employee, executive director, strategic planner, grant writer, and sometimes janitor. In those roles, I consult with entrepreneurs, educate them about the potential risks of their business, and try to help them mitigate those risks. I have served on the board at Civil Advocacy Project as well as Ithaca Community Recovery, Inc., a community non-profit that hosts 12-step recovery meetings. I bring a strong background in business support services; and a deep commitment to sustainable economic development. I am honored to support Alternatives’ mission and impact in the community.

Board committees

Operations Committee

Monitors issues and discusses strategies to deliver efficient, high-quality member service, whether in-branch, mobile, online, ATM, or any other medium.

Lending Committee

Members of the Lending Committee review and propose changes to loan policies and make recommendations for new programs. They review and discuss monthly lending activity, trends, and changes. The value of serving on the Lending Committee is being able to work towards creating products that help underserved people: being true to our mission. 

External Relationships Committee

The External Relationships Committee is responsible for all program and marketing activities, and sourcing community members and organizations to collaborate with Alternatives and for potential Board/Committee members.

Finance Committee

The Finance Committee reviews budgets, audit, capital expenditures, delinquency, collection, investments, and financial statements. The Finance Committee works closely with Alternatives' top-notch staff to review financial trends, develop policies and oversee how the credit union's funds are invested and spent. 

Technology Committee

The Technology Committee is responsible for addressing all technology needs of the credit union, and is expected to research and optimize the internal and member-facing aspects of Alternatives' technology systems.

Supervisory Committee

Alternatives Federal Credit Union bylaws mandate the establishment of a Supervisory Committee to oversee internal audit functions. The responsibility of the committee is to ensure the financial safety and soundness of the credit union on behalf of the credit union's members. This committee performs one of the most important jobs associated with the credit union. The Supervisory Committee has two general goals: 

  1. Ensure management's financial reporting presents a fair and accurate picture of the Credit Union's condition.
  2. Ensure management practices, and procedures safeguard member's assets.

The primary tool used by the Supervisory Committee to accomplish its goals is hiring external auditors to perform an annual audit of the credit union's finances and accounting controls. Each year the committee solicits bids from, then hires an accounting firm or other qualified auditing organization. The committee also reviews internal controls, audit and Federal examination findings, and follows up on recommendations made during the audit and examination. Supervisory Committee members are volunteers, appointed by the board of directors. A committee member must be a member of the credit union and be bondable by the credit union's bonding company. Accounting or bookkeeping experience is not required, though it would be helpful in carrying out the mission of the committee.

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns about your account or the credit union’s operations, you should first contact the credit union directly. However, in the unlikely event you are not satisfied with the response, you can appeal the matter to the Supervisory Committee, which will conduct an additional review.


Alternatives FCU Supervisory Committee 
PO Box 462 
Ithaca, NY 14851

Note: Please use this address for Supervisory Committee correspondence only. Do not send deposits, loan payments, regular mail, etc. to this address


The Assets Liability Committee (ALCO) conducts quarterly reviews of the credit union’s asset to liability ratio, monitoring risk and capital structure.

Nominating Committee

Recruits and nominates a field of candidates for election to Alternatives Board of Directors, to be voted on by Alternatives’ general membership on an annual basis. Three-year board terms are staggered, with approximately three or four seats elected each year, plus any vacancies filled by nomination in the current cycle. It is the goal of the Nominating Committee to promote contested elections and nominate about 40% more candidates than seats up for election

CEO Evaluation Committee

Convened to conduct a performance evaluation of the CEO.

Executive Committee

Convened to handle situations that arise between board meetings.

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