Hillsboro-area residents will soon see a new banking presence in the community, but it will be headed by a very familiar banker.
The Citizens State Bank, based in Moundridge, is opening a loan office in the Wise & Reber law office at 120 N. Main, with longtime Hillsboro banker Bob Watson as the local representative.
Watson said he has already begun working with area clients, primarily in the area of agricultural and commercial loans. He said an exterior sign identifying the loan office should be in place within 10 days. An open house is planned for June 11.
Watson worked some 23 years as a senior officer in the Hillsboro branch of Emprise Bank before being released in a corporate restructuring move about a year ago. He accepted the position of senior vice president with CSB earlier this year.
?Maybe the story is, ?Local banker comes back from the dead,?? Watson joked about his return to downtown Hillsboro in an interview last week.
Watson has served through the years with various local boards and organizations and currently serves on the Hills?boro City Council. He said he and wife Susan used the months between jobs to evaluate their future.
?Susan and I had some time to think about what we wanted to do, and I guess we decided fairly early on that we had lived in Hillsboro for 24 years now, our kids all grew up here, our friends are all here, and Susan works at the (Methodist) church?we just decided that Hillsboro is home, and that?s where wanted to stay,? he said.
As more time passed, Watson said he began to miss banking, particularly working with customers.
?The people end of it is what I really enjoy,? he said.
Watson said he did some consulting work with an area bank and enjoyed it.
?I started thinking about getting back into banking in the area, and didn?t want to drive a million miles,? Watson said.
He drew up some criteria for the next position he would consider.
?No. 1, I wanted a local area bank,? he said. ?I also wanted a bank that was well regarded financially, one that really knows small towns and rural America, and one that its first priority was to serve the local area.
?Of course, I also wanted to work with people who were pleasant to work with and were just good people.?
He said The Citizens State Bank met his criteria, and he discovered they had a mutual interest in each other. Watson?s connections in the area could serve the bank?s interest in expanding in Marion County.
CSB currently has branches in Canton, Goessel, Hesston, McPherson and Newton in addition to the home office in Moundridge.
?Hillsboro fits right in there,? Watson said. ?It?s basically the same people with the same demographics. It?s a very comfortable fit.?
The Hillsboro office will offer only loan services, but Watson said he can direct customers to additional products and services at the other locations.
?I?ll be the only person (in the Hillsboro office),? he said. ?I can certainly act as a go-between to connect people with other products and people within The Citizens State Bank.?
Watson admitted it will be ?different? to be in the banking business literally yards away from the bank where he worked for more than two decades.
?Generally, I feel good about it,? he said. ?I appreciated the years I worked with Emprise, and still have a very close relationships with the local employees. But it?s a little different, there?s no doubt about that.
?They?re both good organizations,? Watson added. ?I?m very pleased to be with The Citizens State Bank and have really enjoyed getting to know the people there. It?s a good bank and I?ll look forward to visiting with people (locally) and telling them about our products.?
Watson said he will not be maintaining regular 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. hours in the new office. Arrange?ments have been made with Wise & Reber to handle inquiries when he is out of the office. Watson can be reached by cell phone at 620-382-6418.