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David Burnett is retiring and Ashley Wells is taking over as president of Mid-Missouri Bank in Mount Vernon.
Rebecca Green | SBJ
David Burnett is retiring and Ashley Wells is taking over as president of Mid-Missouri Bank in Mount Vernon.

Mid-Missouri Bank in Mount Vernon gets new leadership

Ashley Wells takes the helm as David Burnett retires

Posted online

A leadership transition is in the works at Mid-Missouri Bank in Mount Vernon. Community President David Burnett is retiring from his post after 31 years at the financial institution.

Burnett joined the bank as assistant vice president in 1993, when it was known as First National Bank of Mount Vernon, chartered in 1927. In 2006, First National Bank’s holding company merged with Mid-Missouri Bank, and Burnett became president the next year.

On April 1, Ashley Wells, senior vice president and lender and a 23-year veteran of the bank, will succeed Burnett. Though she started in the role of assistant to the president, she earned a degree in accounting and finance at Missouri State University and completed the Graduate School of Banking at Colorado before rising to the top spot.

Wells said her experience with the institution began when she was in high school and took an internship in the proof department for what was then First National Bank. She started her formal career with First Savings Bank before working in the courthouse at the circuit clerk’s office for two years.

Wells was in her early 20s when she got the call inviting her to work for First National, and she never left.

“It’s a good company to work for,” she said. “We have a lot of people who have been here for a long time.”

She added chances are good that customers who come in to do their banking know at least half of the staff.

Burnett agreed, noting Mid-Missouri Bank is built on relationships.

“We’ve been here long enough to where we’ve banked the grandparents, the parents and now the kids,” he said.

Burnett said his succession plan has been in the works for a few years as he worked with Wells to ensure the process was smooth.

“I probably looked at retirement three years out, and I shared that with our president and CEO,” he said, referencing Brian Riedy. “As time got nearer, I had pretty much already picked Ashley to be my replacement. She had been with me for over 20 years already and was always kind of my number two. It was a pretty easy pick.”

He noted the decision to choose Wells was a collective one among bank officials, but a lot of weight was put on his recommendation. Once the decision was made, he began the process of teaching her what she would need to know for the top job.

“The last year has been more intensive with not necessarily training, but just explaining what I do and how I come to those decisions,” he said. “She was a smart banker long before I ever decided to pick her as my replacement. That many years in banking and you’re going to have the training.”

Agricultural customers
Agriculture is an important base for the bank, and both Burnett and Wells have cattle farms themselves, as do all but one of their lenders, according to Burnett.

“We understand what they’re doing and what their passion is because we have the same passion,” Burnett said.

Jeremy Pendleton, president of the Lawrence County Farm Bureau, said it’s nice to do business where many of the bankers are farmers themselves.

“It helps that they understand the day-to-day struggles and processes – to have somebody that knows your situation,” he said. “When you go in there and sit down and start talking about buying replacement heifers, they know what you’re talking about.”

Lawrence County, where Mount Vernon is the county seat, has 10 banking institutions with 11 locations, according to the latest Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. deposit market share report, with deposits totaling $672 million.

As of June 2023, Lawrence County’s banks include Mid-Missouri Bank, with an FDIC-reported $103 million in deposit representing 15.4% market share and ranking fourth in total market share. It’s preceded in the county by OMB Bank, with $142 million in deposits, First State Bank of Purdy, $121 million, and First Independent Bank, $116 million. OMB Bank and Simmons Bank also have branches in Mount Vernon.

Mid-Missouri Bank in Mount Vernon has diversified its accounts, Burnett said, noting there are a lot of commercial accounts, and although Lawrence County is the largest cattle producer in the state – a University of Missouri Extension official confirmed that the county ranks first in the state in overall cattle by about 5,000 head – most of the bank’s largest accounts are not agricultural, but other commercial loans.

“We’re definitely a versatile bank,” Wells said. “Anything from your car loan, your home loan, your farm or business loan – we do it all.”

Relationship banking
Burnett noted the bank is big on relationships, no matter the size of the account.

“We go from $3,000 to $20 million,” he said.

He added that service is the difference-maker among banking institutions.

“I’ve hired a lot of people over my years, and I always have the same speech, and that’s that we sell the same thing as that bank on that corner or the same as the one up the street: We all sell money,” he said. “Your customer service is the only thing that’s going to differentiate you from the other guy. That’s why we call our customers back as soon as we can, and we try to give that one step above excellent service.”

The bank has nine full-time and two part-time operations employees, with six lenders and two loan assistants, Wells said. She noted two lender retirements are on the horizon, and the departing employees have been spending about eight months working with the loan officers who will replace them to help them get to know customers and prepare for the transition.

Burnett said the new hires will replace Wells and another senior vice president who is retiring this month, although some time may pass before they are given the SVP title.

Burnett said the bank has $138 million in current loans, most of which are commercial.  Burnett said he believes the bank will exceed $140 million under Wells’ direction later this year.

One accomplishment Burnett is proud of is the construction of a new bank building on the corner of Mount Vernon Boulevard and Hickory Street. When it was built six years ago, two other locations consolidated into it, helping with the bank’s efficiency, he said.

When asked how he got started in banking, Burnett, a Drury University graduate with a degree in business and managerial economics, joked, “I couldn’t find a job.”

He said his first job prospect after college graduation offered him $6.75 per hour as a management trainee for a savings and loan. At the time, he had $30,000 in student loan debt.

“I asked my dad, ‘What do you think?’” he said. “He said, ‘Well, you gotta start somewhere.”

His career path then took him into construction loan inspections in Springfield, and that’s what he was doing when his cousin alerted him to what he called a real banking job in Mount Vernon.

Burnett moved to the farming community and never looked back.

“It’s been really good to us,” he said.

Burnett said he has been working two jobs throughout his banking career, but upon his retirement – which will happen one day before his 60th birthday – he will devote his time to just one career, which is raising cattle. That’s something he grew up with on his family farm.

“If it wasn’t for the ag base here, I don’t know if I would run cattle like I do now,” he said.

Goal setting
Wells said her chief goal as president is to maintain the level of customer service and care that Burnett has established.

“He’s always set a good example of showing people that you care and that you’re interested,” she said. “We just want to keep that going. He’s had a great run, and we want to continue that.”

Brian Riedy, CEO and president of Mid-Missouri Bank, praised Burnett upon his approaching retirement.

“David Burnett has been an amazing leader for Mid-Mo in Lawrence County and beyond,” Riedy said in an email. “The impact he’s made on our best practices will serve us well as we continue building the community bank of the future here in southwest Missouri.”

He also expressed confidence in Wells.

“Ashley Wells is ready to take the reins. She’s an exceptional banker, and she’s a fixture in our community who people know, like and trust,” said Riedy. “We can’t think of anyone we’d be more excited to see step into this crucial role for our Lawrence County Mid-Mo Bank families and businesses.”

Headquartered in Springfield, Mid-Missouri Bank has 13 locations in 10 communities, according to its website.

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