Every year for the past 36 years, a group of Chattanooga management professionals recognizes a community leader as the Chattanooga Area Manager of the Year.
When the group recently visited Truist Bank Market President Jim "JV" Vaughn to tell him he had won the annual honor this year, the normally talkative 67-year-old banker was temporarily speechless.
"I was stunned and appreciative at the same time, but to be candid I was shocked because I really thought this group had come to ask me for money," Vaughn recalled during an interview last week in his 11th-story bank office.
While he heads operations for Chattanooga's second-biggest bank, Vaughn has also often become a prime fundraiser and supporter for an array of community causes and one who has frequently been called on to help lead local capital campaigns. As chairman of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, Vaughn helped lead the most ambitious fundraising effort for economic development — the $15 million Chattanooga Climbs campaign to support the Chamber's economic development efforts over five years. Vaughn also has helped raise more than $500,000 for the Cherokee Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America and worked on record-setting capital campaigns for the Chattanooga Urban League, the Hunter Museum of Art, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga College of Engineering and the United Way of Greater Chattanooga, among others.
"I've always enjoyed meeting people, giving back to the community and helping other people and organizations to be successful," Vaughn said. "I think one of the keys to that success, which I have learned in meeting sales goals in banking, is to make sure you recognize people and celebrate their success."
It will be Vaughn who is the recipient of praise this year during the chamber's annual awards program when the Manager of the Year honor is presented.
"Every year, we have a lot of excellent nominations of top managers and community leaders for this award, but JV really stands out as one who has helped lead so many efforts to help improve our community in ways seen and unseen," said Richard Johnson, a member of the selection committee for the award, which has been presented to top managers in Chattanooga since 1986.
Job: Market president of Truist Bank
Award: Chattanooga Area Manager of the Year
Education: A graduate of the College of Agriculture at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville with bachelor’s and master’s degrees
Career: Vaughn joined the former Commerce Union Bank in January 1978 as an agricultural lender and spent more than 30 years with that bank and its successive owners including Sovran, C&S and Bank of America in a variety of roles in Middle Tennessee and Chattanooga. In 2010. he was named a senior vice president for Regions Bank in East Tennessee and later headed all of Regions’ SBA lending before joining SunTrust Bank (now Truist) in 2013 and serving as Chattanooga and East Tennessee market presidents
Civic roles: A former chairman of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, Vaughn also serves on the boards of the Hunter Museum of Art, the United Way of Greater Chattanooga, the University of Chattanooga School of Engineering, Volunteers in Medicine and the Lillian L. Colby Charitable Foundation
Personal: He and his wife, Ginger, are parents of a son, Alex, and a daughter, Mary Carlie.
Vaughn will be presented the Chattanooga Area Manager of the Year award during the Chamber's annual awards program scheduled for March 16.
Growing up on a cattle and tobacco farm in Culleoka, Tennessee, about 50 miles south of Nashville, Vaughn is a lifelong Tennessean who values hard work, faith and family. But Vaughn's 43-year career in banking isn't what he initially set out to do.
Vaughn jokingly brags that he graduated among the top 20 students in his high school class — since there were only 20 in the entire class at the K-12 school in Culleoka. As a member of the Future Farmers of America and a point guard on the high school basketball team, Vaughn did show great promise, and community leaders helped support his efforts to go to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.
Vaughn studied in the College of Agriculture with the dream of becoming a county agricultural extension agent or perhaps a teacher or 4-H leader. When the job market wasn't hiring at the time of his graduation, he returned to the family farm briefly until a grant opened up to allow the recent college graduate to return to UT to pursue a master's degree in statistics and computer science, again at the UT College of Agriculture.
Although he thought he would work in animal husbandry, he was drawn into banking in January 1978 at Commerce Union Bank when a banker who he worked with in 4-H activities urged him to become an agricultural lender at the bank. Vaughn soon proved to be a problem solver known as "Mr. Fix it" at Commerce Union and moved on to play a variety of roles with Commerce Union in Springfield, Union City and Lebanon before moving to the bank's headquarters in Nashville. Vaughn came to Chattanooga three decades ago to help Commerce Union gain more of a retail presence in the market after First Tennessee outbid Commerce Union and other banks to acquire what was then Chattanooga's biggest bank, Hamilton National Bank, after the FDIC shut down Hamilton National in 1976.
Vaughn was with Commerce Union Bank and its successive owners of Sovran, C&S and Bank of America for 31 years before his job was phased out in a bank realignment. After working briefly at his own consulting firm, he joined Regions Bank where he headed East Tennessee operations and then later was head of all Regions' small business lending. Vaughn kept his home in Chattanooga, but he worked primarily out of Birmingham, Alabama. He joined SunTrust, the predecessor to Truist, in 2013, in part to spend more time in Chattanooga, and served as market president for both East Tenessee and more recently as Chattanooga market president.
As a manager, Vaughn said he tries not to micromanage his staff and encourages individuals to be successful within the mission of the organization.
"I like to set a vision or a goal for an individual and allow them to use their creativity to let them achieve their goals to be successful," he said. "I also like to be a cheerleader to support individuals and to help work alongside them when they encounter an obstacle. Hopefully, I can use my experience to help either remove the obstacle or find a way to deal with that challenge. But I think being a good manager sometimes means staying out of someone's way and letting them do what they do best to achieve success."
Contact Dave Flessner at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6340.