Joe Waters started working in the mailroom of Benton Banking Co. when he was just 19 years old.
Now at age 36 he is president and chief executive officer of the Benton, Tenn.-based bank which serves the close-knit, rural towns in Polk and Bradley counties.
His appointment came in January days after Benton Bank was purchased by Chattanooga-based banking company First Volunteer Corp.
The purchase of the 100-year-old Benton Bank was made late last year. The deal between the bank’s holding company, Benton Bancshares and First Volunteer, presented an opportunity for the bank to recover from some troubled loans that surfaced late in 2007, according to bank officials.
In his role as president, Mr. Waters said he wants the bank to move on and continue to grow.
“I just (want) to show that the bank is still stable, that the bank is still an important member of our community, and that we’re here for our customers,” he said. “We’re here to still help people out in the same way that we have ever since 1906. We’re going to be available to them, and we’re still their hometown bank.”
Since he was named as the bank’s top officer, it has drawn $3.8 million in new deposits for more than $95 million total.
Patti Steele, First Volunteer’s president and chief executive, said Mr. Waters brings experience and leadership to the bank.
“Joe is deeply committed to the growth and development of Polk County and his leadership as CEO will definitely add value to the county,” she said.
Mr. Waters served as the bank’s senior vice president prior to being named president. In that role he worked in loan operations, lending and new business development.
Because of his upbringing in rural Polk and Bradley counties, Mr. Waters knows most of the people who live in the area. Many of the bank’s 40 employees feel like part of his family because he has known them so long.
“I feel like I have kind of grown up with most of them,” Mr. Waters said. “Living in a small town, we know all their families and everything about everybody pretty much.”
After starting out in the bank’s mailroom, Mr. Waters graduated from Cleveland State Community College and earned a bachelor’s degree from Covenant College. He also graduated from the Tennessee School of Banking at Vanderbilt University and the Graduate School of Banking at Louisiana State University.
He said he had always had an interest in money, but didn’t know he wanted to be a banker until after he graduated from high school. Once he started working at the bank, he said he loved it almost immediately.
“Working here at the bank has never been like a job, it’s always been something like a privilege that I get to wake up in the morning and I get to do,” he said. “It’s an enjoyment.”
* Name: Joe Waters
* Age: 36
* Professional: named president of Benton Banking Co. in January
* Personal: He and his wife of 13 years, Donna, have two children, Madison, 10 and Nate, 7