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A message from retiring bank president of First State Bank of Fountain

Fri, Jun 18th, 2010
Posted in Business Announcements

I grew up in Virginia, Minnesota and upon finishing high school I enlisted in the Marine Corps and served from 1960 to 1963. After my discharge I attended Mesabi Commuinty College and UMD majoring in Business Education. During that time period I met my wife Karen who was an elementary teacher in Virginia. We were married in June 1968, and in August I went to work for what is now the Wells Fargo bank in Duluth (at that time the Corporation was Banco). In 1971, I was transferred to their bank in Virginia and worked as a lending officer from 1971 to 1978. By then I had decided to make banking my career, however, two-thirds of the state was agriculture and I did not know much about farming. So, I began sending resumes to smaller banks in Minnesota looking for a president to help me learn agricultural lending. Our idea was to spend three to five years in a small rural bank and move on to not only a bigger town but a bigger bank.

I was hired in May of 1978 as President of the First State Bank of Wykoff. Our son, Bill, began third grade and our daughter, Becky, started kindergarten in Wykoff. After a few years, we fell in love with the southeastern Minnesota area and our children made friends in Wykoff. I worked in Wykoff until December of 1986. In the latter part of 1986, I spoke to the late Charles M. Johnson Sr. -- then President of the First State Bank of Fountain -- regarding a position available by the retirement of George Stender. In January 1987, I accepted the position of Executive Vice President.

I have written primarily about myself when I should be writing about the customers and my wonderful experiences with them. The First State Bank of Fountain is primarily an agricultural bank. We help farmers with their crop inputs, machinery purchases as well as other farm expenses including the purchases of additional agricultural real estate. Over the years we have helped transfer farming operations from one generation to another. As we all know, over the years operations have not always proceeded the way everyone hoped. The 1980's were one of those time periods with high interest rates, high inflation, declining asset values and low commodity prices. The First State Bank of Fountain has been a family owned community bank for many generations right up to today with Charles M. Johnson, Jr. the current President. The Johnson family purchased Root River State Bank of Chatfield in 1966. Charles Jr. (Chuck) is also President there.

During the late 80's all agricultural banks had some problem loans. I have repeated this story many times to people. A young farmer was struggling a little and I questioned whether we should continue with him. The conversation with Charles would go something like this: "Well his grandfather banked with my dad, his dad banked with me and this young fellow comes from good stock." Therefore, Charles would say lets continue with him. I have to say the overwhelming majority worked out and are still farming today. With Chuck as President today we are now working with the fourth generation farmers and doing well.

For me, I have enjoyed the past 23 years more than any of my other banking years. The customers, employees and directors have been wonderful to work with.

As I approach my retirement date of June 30th, I am remaining on the Board of Directors. However, I will not have near as much contact with the customers and employees, and I will miss that contact.

My wife Karen has just retired from the Kingsland School district as their Early Childhood Special Education Teacher. Our son Bill and his wife Melissa and our grandson Jackson, a second grader, live in West St. Paul. Our daughter Becky and her fiancée Sam will marry on September 4th and live in St. Paul. Karen and I will certainly travel to the cities more often to visit both families. We also plan to travel quite a bit to other parts of the U. S. in our retirement. I might possibly play a round of golf or two.

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