Bank president retiring after close to 17 years at the helm

Bank president retiring after close to 17 years at the helm

DANVILLE – From day one as the president of the Danville branch of First Midwest Bank, Jim Anderson borrowed the philosophy of a former president.

He put it on a little card and distributed it to all his employees. On Monday, it was still displayed on his bookshelf after nearly 17 years as bank president: "It's My Responsibility!"

"That sentence distills down to what we all should be doing," Anderson said. "Whatever the task, see it through."

Nancy Sacre, Anderson's executive secretary, started at First Midwest the same time as Anderson 23 years ago and actually was his assistant in the commercial banking area then.

Sacre joked that she has spent more time with Anderson than with her husband over the years.

"He's my boss, my mentor and my friend," she said of Anderson. "Sometimes, it makes me just sick to my stomach that I'll come in here and not see his face. He's been our rock, our foundation."

Anderson's last day is March 31.

"I call it retirement with a small 'r,'" he said in his always soft-spoken manner. "My wife and I have been focused on being able to do this at this point in time."

Being able to retire at 55 means he may not have focused on certain things that he will now devote more time to, he said.

"Any time I didn't spend with my kids, I can now give my grandkids," Anderson said. "I'll also probably spend some time chasing fish, too, and I have a feeling there will be plenty of opportunities to stay engaged in the community.

"You might even call this a hiatus rather than retirement," Anderson joked. "Someone described it as letting go of one trapeze and you've not quite grabbed the next."

Anderson graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in history.

"I thought about going to law school. When I came home in 1975, there was this new building going up on Gilbert Street," he said, referring to what was then Iroquois Federal Savings and Loan. "I figured if there's this new building, they probably need some help."

When Anderson took a position with First Midwest, it was like coming home.

"I had my first savings account here when I was 9 years old for my lawn-mowing money," Anderson said.

The veteran banker said he's proud his employer and profession have always been at the table when it comes to facing community problems.

"In today's world, it's a challenge for a lot of organizations to bring as much of the corporate resources to their individual communities as they can," he said. "The value of having local management is to leverage those corporate assets to assist local causes."

His proudest accomplishment is the "development of people I've had the privilege to work with. Our employee tenure is an outward sign of the quality of our business."

Working with the same people for so many years has made the group a family and Anderson has been treated as much-beloved as well as an easy target for "family fun."

"On his 40th birthday, we went all out," Sacre said. "We brought in the black balloons, a wheelchair with a fake catheter bag, even a coffin. We were so ornery, but he has such a great sense of humor, he went right with it."

Not every day is a party, though.

"Over the years, there have been things that didn't go well, but he's helped us through the good and the bad," Sacre said. "We enjoy it here because of the people like Jim."

Anderson said a lot of people consider bankers as negative people who may dash dreams.

"Banking in our market is being a trusted adviser," he said. "Sitting down and making sure there is an understanding by both parties as to what will happen with a business transaction is our job.

"I've had a wonderful opportunity for a profession in my hometown with people I've come to know and love, over a lot of years," Anderson said. "I've also been able to work with so many committed initiatives that have helped make Danville a destination because they have raised our quality of life."

An open house reception is planned for Anderson and his wife, Linda, from 1 to 5 p.m. April 1 at the bank, 27 N. Vermilion St.

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