From the Top

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I’ve Enjoyed the Ride!

By John H. Buhrmaster, Chairman of ICBA

A dozen years ago when I attended my first ICBA convention in Orlando, I never could have imagined that I would be sitting here today as chairman of your great national association, writing my 12th and final chairman’s column for Independent Banker. Yet here I am, reminiscing about the past year—one that has been so many things and has meant so much to me and my family. It has been exciting, tiring, educational and, most of all, inspirational. The past year has been one of the most meaningful experiences of my life.

Part of the job of the ICBA chairman is to travel the country, and sometimes the world, to represent community banks whenever and wherever needed. That’s the job. But the fun comes when you get to talk to community bankers, waitresses, cab drivers, doctors and students. That is where you get to see what really drives our country. The one thing that all these people you meet have in common is that, somewhere down the line, their life was changed for the better, either directly or indirectly, by a community bank. After having the opportunity to witness so much this year, I can say with strong conviction that America starts with you—the community banker. It all starts at your desk.

Maybe a student is going to college because his parents’ business was started with a community bank loan. Maybe a community bank line of credit got that restaurant through some tough times and helped that waitress keep her job. Maybe a community bank helped that doctor finance an MRI machine that helped catch a patient’s cancer early. As a community banker, you really don’t get to see everything that happens when you take a chance on someone, but good things do happen, and they happen because of you.

As I was preparing to give a speech in Japan last fall, I researched our small bank’s customer base and found that more than two dozen small businesses that banked with us also provided goods and services around the world. U.S. community banks are not only important to our local communities; we are an important part of the global economy.

That is why with my last chairman’s column, I will make one last push for you to become involved—something that has been my platform and focus over the past year. We must continue to be heard—all of us, for the sake of our nation’s economy and the global economy.

Make community banking your cause if you haven’t already, and fight like hell for it. Don’t ever let your message get watered down. I’m ending my term as ICBA chairman, but I have only begun my work in advocating for community banks!

Never before have community banks held so much clout. Now is our time to shine! People have asked me what has been my favorite part of being chairman, and I can say that it has undoubtedly been seeing the passion of community bankers around the country. There is unlimited potential for all of us to prosper.

It has been a true honor serving as your ICBA chairman. I’ve enjoyed the ride! Thank you for your support and inspiration over the past year. I couldn’t be more grateful and humbled to serve such a noble cause.


John H. Buhrmaster is president and CEO of 1st National Bank of Scotia, in Scotia, N.Y.