Carl Long has been a fixture in his office at Hillsboro State Bank for more than 20 years.
Carl Long has seen a lot of changes in the banking industry during his 44-year career, especially the nearly 21 years as president of Hillsboro State Bank.
Long will ?close the account? on that career Friday when associates and friends mark his retirement with a public reception at the bank from 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.
?It?s a rewarding profession, it really is,? Long said of his banking career. ?I look back over all the years that I?ve been in this business, and the people I?ve had the opportunity to help reach their dreams and goals?I think that?s probably the most satisfying thing.
?There are some success stories a person can look back on.?
Long?s personal story should be included in that collection. He said he got into the banking business ?by accident.?
A native of Whitewater, he had gone to college with the intention of teaching business or history. But the Vietnam War draft detoured his path into a four-year stint with the Air Force.
When he completed that tour, he returned to Whitewater. One day while he was working in the backyard, a neighbor from across the street invited him over for a glass of ice tea. She happened to own the bank in Whitewater.
?We chit-chatted for a while and then she finally said, ?Would you be interested in going to work at the bank?? I told her, ?I don?t know anything about banking.? She said, ?Well, I?ve watched you grow up and I think you have the ability to do what needs to be done.?
?I told her, ?If you?re willing to take a chance on me, I?m willing to make a stab at it.??
Long started his career from scratch, filing checks and running the old proofing machine. Gradually, he learned the entire operation of the bank and his responsibilities increased accordingly.
He augmented his education with classes on economics and banking at Wichita State University.
From Whitewater, he went on to accept banking positions at Cheney, Ingalls and Dodge City. He was in a temporary position in southeast Oklahoma when he got a call from his sister back in Whitewater. She said their father?s health was failing and he needed to move closer to home to help care for him.
?I said fine, but find me a job,? Long recalled.
She told him about an advertisement she had seen about the president position at Hillsboro State.
?To make a long story short, I was the lucky straw that was drawn,? he said with smile.
That was March 1988?about four years after the family-owned bank was moved from Ramona to Hills?boro and renamed.
During his tenure, technological changes accelerated at Hillsboro State along with the rest of the banking industry. Long oversaw the start of credit and debit cards, check imaging, ATMs and online banking services.
?Those are the biggest things we have had to deal with as the bank has grown,? he said.
But they?re not the most challenging thing.
?The saddest part of the whole process are the regulations and compliants that have been handed down by the government,? he said. ?Federal and state governments are basically micro-managing the banking industry anymore.
?Honestly, if it was just banking, I might stick around a little longer,? he added. ?But I?m fed up past my eyeballs with all the regulations. We spend more time satisfying regulators and consumer requirements than we do actually banking.?
Although those challenges put him in good company with almost every other bank, Long has become increasingly unique in that the bank he leads has remained an independent entity in a day of large banks with multiple locations.
?In the management level of a bank, when you?re the only institution, you have to wear more hats?you become more responsible for so many different other things,? he said.
?If you?re in a larger bank, you?re usually in one department or assigned to a specific area of banking, and you just dedicate yourself to that specific function.?
?I?ve enjoyed the variety.?
During his stay in Hillsboro, Long has been involved in myriad community outlets, including church, Kiwanis Club, Chamber of Commerce board and hospital board.
?I?ve always been a firm believer in being involved in the community,? he said. ?That?s how you get to know people and get acquainted. I?ve met a lot of nice, good people being associated with those entities.?
His most rewarding involvement has been through the Hills?boro Golf Association, where he has served as president for 19 of his 20-plus years in town.
?The irrigation of the fairways, rebuilding the course and facilities, cart sheds, maintenence shops, fertilizer storage building, cart paths?a lot of construction has gone on out there these past 20 years that has changed the course a lot.
?The great thing about it is that it was done with volunteer labor, basically,? he added. ?There were expenses involved, but the actual labor was done with volunteers.?
Long said he expects golf and his other passion, fishing, to take up more of his time as he moves into retirement. Wife Jane will continue working as office secretary for the school district until mid-October. By the following spring, they plan to move to Bella Vista, Ark.
?They cover my two major sins?they?ve got eight golf courses and seven fishing lakes down there,? he said with a smile. ?We really love it there.?
The transition will be bittersweet, though.
?We?ve made a lot of good friends here, we really have,? Long said. ?The quality of life here is about as good as you could want in a small town. We?re going to miss that, there?s no doubt about it.?
Long said he?ll also miss the ?great staff? he has worked alongside.
?Through the 20 years I?ve been here, there?s been very little turnover,? he said. ?I?ve tried to keep it as kind of an all-in-the-family type of environment.?
Long said he also appreciates the Robert Arnold family that maintains ownership of the bank.
?The Arnold family has been great to work for,? he said. ?They?ve been good for me and I hope I?ve been good for them.?