More Outstanding Lenders

John F. Merrill

For several years ICBA Independent Banker has asked community bankers across the country to identify colleagues who they consider outstanding community lenders—people who they believe are industry role models. This year, in addition to eight lenders ICBA Independent Banker has profiled this month, we received several dozen community bankers who were recommended by their supervisors or co-workers as outstanding lenders worthy of national recognition.

In the spirit of recognizing as many outstanding lenders as possible, what follows are many of those recommendations for community bankers have the respect and admiration of their peers.

John F. Merrill, President
Fidelity Co-Operative Bank in Leominster, Mass.
What his colleagues say: “Since joining the bank in 2012, John’s leadership has improved our commercial loan portfolio growth by 44.7 percent. … He is a strong but fair leader. He cares about people as individuals and never overlooks a client’s or an employee’s talent and potential. Each day, he helps our clients make more informed decisions about their money to improve their financial well-being.”

Thelma Welch, Vice President/Loan Officer  
Merchants & Planters Bank in Newport, Ark.
What her colleagues say: “Thelma is one of the most detailed loan officers in the business. She’s the type that commits to you the moment you walk in her door. She will be honest and tell you what you need to know, not what you want to hear. She’s a professional and serious about her job, but compassionate towards her clients and co-workers. She’s the total package when it comes to a lender. Plus, she’s the best cook this side of the Mississippi.”

Janet Marie Lewis

Janet Marie Lewis, Vice President and Mortgage Lender  
CSB Bank in Capac, Mich.
What her colleagues say: “Janet Lewis has given all of our employees the best example to strive for in customer service and pride in a job well done. Her mortgage loan portfolio is the largest of any of our mortgage loan originators. Her customers come back to CSB Bank for other banking needs and most importantly refer friends and family to her, which is the highest compliment that you can give to a lender or banking institution.”

Todd Stewart, Chief Credit Officer 
Rock Canyon Bank  in Orem, Utah
What his colleagues say: “Todd Stewart has been instrumental in turning the bank’s performance around during the last three years. For 2012, the bank experienced its most profitable year since its inception 22 years ago. Todd has created a credit culture that is committed to safety and soundness, attention to detail and sound banking practices with a focus on community relationships. His clients and fellow bankers respect his integrity, strong work ethic and performance-driven results.”

Andrew P. Heck

Andrew (Drew) P. Heck, Senior Vice President  
New Windsor State Bank in Taneytown, Md.
What his colleagues say: “Drew is a highly skilled commercial lender providing lending and banking solutions to his clients. He is very proactive and always seeks ways to help his clients. He is a team player who is highly regarded by the bank, his clients and the community.”

Rick L. Tingle, Senior Vice President  
Franklin Bank & Trust Co. in Franklin, Ky.
What his colleagues say: “He takes the time to know his clients and will work with them to fill their needs. Excellent people skills, strong analytic skills and balances clients’ needs with bank needs!”

John Gordon Ashley III, Senior Vice President/Loan Officer  
Madison County Community Bank in Madison, Fla.
What his colleagues say: “His past experience and knowledge helps him to communicate with the farmers in our area and our commercial accounts helping them to realize their banking needs and his work ethics helps them to reach positive goals for themselves and Madison County Community Bank. He always goes beyond what is expected. We are proud to have Don Ashley at Madison County Community Bank and consider him one of our strongest assets.”

Gail Mann, 2nd VP, Mortgage Loan Officer  
American Federal Savings Bank in Helena, Mont.
What her colleagues say: “Gail has enthusiastically become our bank’s advocate for low- and moderate-income first-time homebuyers. For over 10 years Gail has volunteered her time to help with Home Buyer education programs in our community. Gail also serves on the board of NeighborWorks, Mont., a nonprofit affordable housing organization. … Gail is a perfect example of how all community bankers should be. Passionate about helping others and always willing to volunteer her time to make our community the best.”

Gary L. Watrous

Gary L. Watrous, Senior Vice President and Senior Lending Officer 
The First National Bank of Groton in Groton, N.Y.
What his colleagues say: “Gary is very knowledgeable about the communities that this bank serves. He is a member and leader of many community organizations and can identify with the needs of area consumers and businesses. Gary is a role model in all that he does and a truly great person.”

Thomas L. Adams, Vice President – Commercial Loan Officer  
Bank of McKenney in McKenney, Va.
What his colleagues say: “Tommy has been in the banking business more than 20 years. He joined our bank in April 2011 and has already grown his portfolio to $51 million. He has one of the largest followings I have seen in my 30-year career. Tommy is involved in many community activities which enables him to meet new people who are drawn to him. He is out every day in the community—not sitting at a desk. This enables him to go out to meet the customer on their ‘turf.’ He is straightforward with his customers, which they appreciate.”

Paul J. Schaller

Paul J. Schaller, SVP, Commercial Lender 
Bank of Wisconsin Dells in Wisconsin Dells, Wis.
What his colleagues say: “Paul gains customers’ confidence as he takes a keen interest in their success and helps them reach their goal. This has led to a large network of loyal customers who put their faith in his skills. Paul is known among our service area as ‘one of the best.’ Paul also leads our sales team and has assisted staff in understanding a sales culture and the importance of gaining customer loyalty by looking to their ultimate success. He is an outstanding mentor for our younger lenders and takes a keen interest in their development.”

Kathy Smith, Loan Officer  
Bank of Brodhead in Brodhead, Wis.
What her colleagues say: “Kathy Smith cares about her customers and works with them to meet their varied financial needs. She enjoys working with first-time homebuyers and has helped many of the bank’s customers refinance to take advantage of low mortgage interest rates. She is committed to helping the people of Brodhead and is a true example of an outstanding lender.”

Deena Gisholt, V.P., Branch Manager & Commercial Relationship Manager  
Oregon Pacific Bank in Florence, Ore.
What her colleagues say: “Deena does an excellent job of representing Oregon Pacific Bank in her community (Coos Bay) and is involved in numerous activities there. She does this while managing her branch, making good loans and managing a diverse portfolio. … Deena is an asset to the company and her community.”

Amy Thiede, Assistant Vice President 
Prairie Community Bank in Marengo, Ill.
What her colleagues say: “For several years she originated mortgage loans and contributed to record profits. Amy advanced to a management role in 2012 and shifted away from mortgage originations. Due to her outstanding customer service we have had to move her back to her loan officer position and mortgage originations. Our customers want the personal service she has always provided. Our board members also requested her return to mortgages as they want their referrals to be handled with the care and professionalism she provides. Amy is a trusted community banker in and out of the bank.”

Lonnie R. Hedstrom, EVP and Ag Officer  
Swedish American State Bank in Courtland, Kan.
What his colleagues say: “Lonnie has been in the banking business 40 years. Our loan portfolio is almost all agriculture. In our last three federal and state examinations we have had no ag classifications. We are loaned up 70 percent. Lonnie’s expertise and experience in the ag area has taken our bank to this level.”

Joe Delmore

Joe Delmore, Loan Officer       
HomeStar Bank and Financial Services in Manteno, Ill.
What his colleagues say: “HomeStar has been the number one home loan lender in Kankakee County, Ill., every year since 1991. Joe Delmore helps make that happen. Joe has helped thousands of local residents realize their dream of homeownership. We regularly receive customer surveys from Joe’s customers saying they loved working with Joe and appreciate the time he takes to help them.”

Carol J. Walker, Vice President of Commercial loans  
Woodsville Guaranty Savings Bank in Woodsville, N.H.
What her colleagues say: “Carol has a very solid portfolio of commercial and community credits. She has shown her leadership skills by recently obtaining financing for a brand new food cooperative that has been highly successful and a large asset for the community. In addition, she has led affordable housing projects in her community that other financial institutions could not do by partnering with a regional housing not for profit. … She has been with the bank for 10 years and is well respected both in and out of the bank.”

Marty J. Lombardi

Marty J. Lombardi, Senior Vice President and Senior Lending Officer  
Savings Bank of Mendocino County in Ukiah, Calif.
What his colleagues say: “Marty Lombardi is retiring this year after 41 years of service to this bank. Marty has built the bank and his career around community service and involvement. … He has interwoven community banking into the fabric of this community and made our bank a significant part of the economic development and viability of this community and county. Over his tenure the bank has built a 54 percent deposit market share! At the same time, his considerable lending skills and credit judgment have helped the bank achieve results year in and year out that are above its peer group. Marty has made community banking his avocation and mission. One would be hard-pressed to find a lender or leader that better exemplifies the mission of community banks and community bankers.”

Larry Miller, EVP Division Manager, SBA Lending  
Prosper Bank in Prosper, Texas
What his colleagues say: “Larry is an SBA loan officer with a high degree of integrity. He takes his position seriously in trying to help young emerging businesses grow and expand. He freely offers his experience advice to other banks and bankers who want to learn more about the SBA process. Larry always follows the rules and looks out for the customer’s best interest. He is pleasant to work with and is always willing to help a co-worker in whatever capacity is needed. Larry is also very active as an ambassador for the bank. You can find him often at the BBQ grill serving those in the community or working late to help make a business plan come to life. There is a lot to be said for simply working hard and consistently doing the right thing—Larry Miller is a pillar example to follow. His many years of experience are a great benefit to the bank in all aspects of lending and servicing loans.”