Kelly Zielinski works at Marine Credit Union (MCU) as a home equity line of credit specialist. She explained that her current position is the in-between for her to transition from a consumer loan officer to working in mortgages. She said that during her three and a half years with MCU, “I got addicted to helping members.”
Kelly shared that MCU did her mortgage. “They lowered my interest rate, cut term and saved me a couple hundred dollars a month. I was so excited and elated they were able to help me do that,” she explained. When helping others with their mortgages, Kelly said it’s “an adrenaline rush. Some companies,” she continued, “just want to get more interest, but we would rather see you in a better spot.”
Kelly was born in Omaha, Nebraska, but spent the first three years of her life in Australia. “My parents worked for government entities,” she explained. “They both worked for the CIA,” she added with a smile. Her mom wanted to be a flight attendant. “She received all these letters from the FBI and CIA wanting her to move to Washington, D.C.” Kelly explained that it seemed the flight school that her mom attended was used for government recruitment. And for her father, Kelly said that she never really knew what he exactly did but that she was told he did communications for the U.S. Air Force.
Eventually Kelly found herself growing up in North Virginia and attended Potomac Falls High School. She later attended Northern Kentucky University and the National College of Business and Technology.
“One day, shortly after graduating, I decided to sell everything, buy a one-way ticket and moved to Hawaii,” Kelly shared and added with a smile. “I lived homeless on the beach for a while.” Kelly said she did find work on a bonsai tree farm for a while. Her adventures there didn’t last too long, but she said that she was glad that she did it. “Being able to wake up and see sea turtles and dolphins … there were wild chickens all over the place,” she continued with a laugh. “There were stands on the side of the road. Catch and cook. Fifteen dollars a chicken. That was the best chicken.”
Kelly shared she was recruited by Arthur Murray School of Dance to be a ballroom teacher at one point in her life, but she preferred country line dancing. “It was very zen like,” she said of her dancing. “I was living in the moment. It was great.”
After that, Kelly married. Kelly, her daughter Avery (now 12), and her now ex-husband moved to Fairbanks, Alaska due to her husband being transferred from his position at the Arlington National Cemetery. Alaska, she said, “had it’s good and bad moments. I saw the Northern Lights almost every night and the wildlife! The king salmon runs were cool to witness. But it was cold. Really cold. Minus 60 degrees … without the wind,” she added.
During their four years in Alaska, Kelly shared that she kept busy with her “family readiness group” on the base. “We raised funds for company picnics and parties. I was the treasurer. It was a very close-knit group of army wives. I am still friends with 85 percent of them to this day.”
When her ex-husband got out of the army, Kelly, pregnant with her son Gabriel (now 9) and her family moved to Owatonna, Minnesota. During this time Kelly owned an insurance agency then worked at Wells Fargo in the La Crosse area after her divorce.
Kelly and her kids now call Hokah home. “We love Hokah,” Kelly shared and smiled. “It’s our favorite place. It has a small town feel with a big city right there. I’m not dealing with traffic like I did in D.C.,” she added and smiled again. “I have Como Falls in my back yard. We have turned into huge river rats. The bluffs are gorgeous, and the people are nice. I just love it here.”
Kelly started her financial career at a student loan company. Her mother had worked in a bank for the government as a collections manager for 40 years and Kelly said she has not only found her home in Hokah but also at MCU.
“I fell in love with this company,” Kelly said of MCU. “They treat their employees very well. They are very understanding about work/life balance. I just love this company. I am definitely an MCU-er for life,” she added and laughed. “They are going to have to force me to retire.”
Kelly now works remotely from her home that she shares with her children, their two dogs (Brody and Rocky) and their two cats (Scout and Binx). “That’s me in a nutshell,” Kelly said with another smile at the end of her interview.