The Alabama Bankers Association Rising Stars program was launched this year as a collaborative effort between the association and Business Alabama to recognize and identify the emerging leaders in the Alabama banking industry. Those selected for this honor were chosen because of the impact they have made in both the bank and the community. Bankers in Alabama have a longstanding tradition of being leaders in their communities and giving back through service to area non-profit agencies.
“Our members pride themselves on serving their neighbors,” says Scott Latham, ABA president and CEO. “While reviewing the applications of those nominated, it was no surprise to see a high level of involvement in the United Way, area food banks and children’s charities, among others. Our honorees were consistently praised for going above and beyond when serving others.”
Besides service to community, another important factor judges considered was the contribution of each honoree to his or her financial institution. A big focus of the banking community during this past year was to fund loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program. The PPP was developed as part of the 2020 CARES Act to help small businesses survive during the pandemic. Banks overwhelmingly funded the majority of loans approved through the PPP program, and many of the Rising Stars Award winners were instrumental in
“The bankers chosen for our Rising Stars Award consistently contribute to their respective bank’s profitability and innovation. A number of those selected were lauded as an integral part of their bank’s effort to lend money through the PPP. Small businesses throughout the state credit the loans received through the PPP as the key to their survival during the pandemic,” Latham says.
Latham says he hopes the Rising Stars Award program will help banks honor those employees who will define the future of the Alabama banking industry. “Our first-ever Rising Star Award winners exemplify what Alabama banks are all about: serving others and helping their neighbors reach their financial goals. In the years to come my hope is that this program provides an opportunity to celebrate the Alabama banking industry and those who make it great,” he says.
Here are the honorees:
Mary Ellen Allen is retail manager and vice president of CB&S Bank in Red Bay. She has 26 years of banking experience. Over the last decade, under her direction, the Red Bay branch has had a 10% growth in loans and more than 100% growth in non-interest deposits, indicating a large growth in core customers. A graduate of the University of Mississippi, Allen also has earned seven Center for Financial Training diplomas in general banking, branch management, consumer lending, retail banking, commercial lending, mortgage lending and operations, as well as graduating from the Southeastern School of Consumer Lending and the Alabama Banking School. She began her banking career at Citizens Bank, now CB&S Bank, and has worked her entire career at the same location, where she now oversees six branches of the bank as well as serving as Red Bay’s branch sales manager. She also is very active in her community, serving as chairman of the Red Bay City Park and Recreation Board. She recently retired from serving as the director of Franklin County Chamber of Commerce. For the last 10 years she has helped prepare and serve the Community Thanksgiving free meals for approximately 250 people in need in Red Bay.
Elizabeth Bailey is vice president of business development for BancorpSouth. A University of Alabama graduate, Bailey has more than 17 years of banking experience in multiple areas, including public relations, lending, management and compliance. She is a graduate of the inaugural class of the Alabama Banker Association’s Executive Leadership Certification Program, the American Bankers Association’s Bank Marketing School and the Alabama Bankers Association’s Alabama Banking School. She is chairman of the board of Bankers 2 Leaders of the Alabama Bankers Association and serves on the board of Family Promise of Coastal Alabama Inc. She also is a member of the Mobile MS Leadership Class of 2020 and the advisory council for the Multiple Sclerosis Leadership Class of 2021. She volunteers with the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce.
Eric Baswell is chief risk officer and legal counsel for Central State Bank. Baswell earned his degrees in criminal justice and business administration from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and his JD from Birmingham School of Law. A licensed attorney, Baswell graduated from the Alabama Banking School in 2018 and later the Alabama Bankers Association’s Executive Leadership Program. In his current role with Central State Bank, Baswell draws on his 20-year experience in the financial industry to help play a role in the overall operations of the bank. Baswell is also active in his community, volunteering as a coach for youth sports, serving as a Scout master and in his church’s leadership positions.
Heath Blevins is vice president of First Jackson Bank, where he has been employed since 1999. A graduate of Northeast Alabama Community College and Jacksonville State University, Blevins is also a graduate of Samford University’s Banking School. In the community, Blevins is treasurer of the Plainview High School Bear Club, his alma mater, and Sylvania Baptist Church, where he is a member. He also is a member of the Northeast Alabama Community College Foundation Board and the Alabama Bankers Association’s Bankers 2 Lenders board.
Charlie Breedlove is executive vice president and chief lending officer of Friend Bank, a position he has held since 2010. His prior banking experience includes positions with BBVA Compass, Wachovia Bank, Compass Bank, Regions Bank and the Commercial Bank of Ozark, where he got his start in 1993. A graduate of Auburn University with both bachelor and master’s degrees, Breedlove is also a graduate of the Bankers 2 Lenders program of the Alabama Bankers Association. An Eagle Scout, Breedlove has previously served as a cubmaster and den leader and on the board of Boys Scouts of America Alabama-Florida Council. He is a coach and board member with Dothan National League. He currently serves as a board member of the Alabama Bankers Association’s Bankers 2 Lenders program and the Alabama Multifamily Loan Consortium.
Chase Chambliss is vice president and relationship manager of River Bank & Trust in Montgomery. He was instrumental in leading the bank’s team during the PPP program, helping to develop the bank’s processes. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Auburn University and his MBA from Troy University. He also has been involved with the Alabama Bankers Association since his banking career began in 2008 with Whitney Bank. He came to River Bank & Trust in 2012. In the community, Chambliss is chairman of The Boys Work Committee of the Montgomery YMCA and vice president of the Montgomery Auburn Alumni Club. He is also starting his fourth year as a representative for the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce Total Recourse Campaign and has spent several years working with the River Region United Way on its allocations and corporate executive fundraising committees.
Jenny Clark is senior vice president of human resources and administration of Merchants Bank of Alabama in Cullman. A graduate of Auburn University with a master’s in public administration, Clark has more than 16 years of banking experience. He joined Merchants in 2013 and is responsible for administering payroll, benefits, recruitment, new hire training and employee relations. A “people person,” Clark enjoys helping employees grow in their respective fields. She also is active in the community, acting as a financial literacy facilitator for high school students through Link of Cullman County, working with United Way of Cullman and participating in mission projects. She is a member of the Alabama Bankers Association’s Bankers 2 Lenders program and is a participant in the Bank Executive Leadership Certification Program.
Travis Colquett is president of Brantley Bank and Trust. A summa cum laude graduate of Troy University, Colquett began his financial career with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. in 2007, where he worked as a risk management examiner and helped the Division of Resolution and Receivership in the area of insurance during the Great Recession. He then worked for four years as a compliance officer with First Citizens Bank of Luverne before moving to Troy Bank & Trust, where he served for four years. He then joined Brantley Bank and Trust in 2017 in his current position. When he isn’t working at the bank, Colquett manages his family’s rental properties, while his wife, Diana Watson Colquett, manages Alabama Mud Park, an ATV/SXS mud park.
Martin Colvin is a commercial loan officer and Pickens County president for BankFirst Financial Services Inc. A graduate of the University of Alabama with both bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Colvin started his banking career in 2009 with First National Bank of Central Alabama as a credit analyst and assistant relationship manager. He then moved to commercial loan officer before being named Pickens County president. BankFirst Financial Services acquired FNB of Central Alabama in 2019. In the community, Colvin has served as president of the Aliceville Rotary Club and is currently president-elect of the Aliceville Area Chamber of Commerce board. He also has served on the board of United Way of West Alabama, where he has been a member of the volunteer allocation team and the campaign cabinet.
Alana Cooper is assistant vice president, commercial loan officer for First Bank of Alabama in Talladega. A Talladega native, Cooper began her banking career in 2008 while pursuing a degree in early childhood education, but quickly realized that banking was her niche. She currently manages an $80 million loan portfolio. She graduated from the Alabama Banking School in 2018 and the Alabama Bankers Association’s Executive Leadership Program in 2020. She is also very active in her community, where she delivers meals for the Red Door Kitchen and is a volunteer with The Arc of North Talladega County. She also serves on the board for the Alabama Bankers Association’s Bankers 2 Lenders program.
Matt Dial is president and CEO of MainStreet Loan Co. Inc., a subsidiary of 22nd State Bank. A graduate of Troy University, the Alabama Bankers Association’s Bankers 2 Lenders Program and the Graduate School of Banking at LSU, Dial started his banking career in 1998 as a branch manager with Acceptance Loan Co., a subsidiary of First US Bank. He joined 22nd State Bank in 2018 as executive vice president, community banking executive. He helped launch MainStreet Loan Co. in 2021. Dial is active in his community serving as vice president and school board member of the Satsuma City School System and is a former city council member for the City of Satsuma. He also is a member of the Lions Club and the Mobile Chamber of Commerce.
Walt Ellis is senior vice president and commercial loan officer for Troy Bank and Trust. An Auburn University graduate, Ellis got his start in banking with Troy Bank and Trust in 2009, where initially he served as a credit analyst before moving up to his current role. A Certified Public Accountant, Ellis is also a tireless volunteer in his community, working with the Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce, the Southeast Health Foundation, Wiregrass United Way, the Dothan Young Professionals, Dothan Rotary Club and was recently named a Top 20 Under 40 for the Dothan area. He also is a graduate of Leadership Dothan, Alabama Banking School and the Alabama Banker Association’s Executive Leadership Program. He also volunteers with the Love Dothan community initiative and the Future Masters.
Stacy Faison serves as regional president of East Alabama/West Georgia for Troy Bank and Trust. He also serves on the bank’s senior management team and is a member of the risk management and strategic initiatives committee. With a background in commercial, wholesale, retail and private wealth banking, Faison is responsible for forming and executing the bank’s strategic growth initiatives in the region. He is chairman of the Foundation Board and the executive committee and sits on the governance committee at Piedmont Columbus Regional Healthcare. He also was recently appointed to the Alabama Trust Fund Board and currently serves on the boards of the Auburn Chamber of Commerce, the Alabama Bankers Association Bankers 2 Lenders division and Lindsey Kates Closet Inc. He is very active with Troy University, where he earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees. His is also a graduate of the Georgia Banking School at the University of Georgia and Georgia Bankers Association’s Graduate School of Banking Program and the Alabama Bankers Association’s Bank Executive Leadership Program.
Brian Groeschell is the Tuscaloosa market executive with SmartBank. A University of Alabama graduate, Groeschell started his banking career in late 2002 with SouthTrust Bank and transitioned to various roles in retail banking throughout the mergers of Southtrust to Wachovia and Wachovia to Wells Fargo. After 10 years in retail banking, Groeschell expanded his skills on the commercial side as a business relationship manager. In 2014, he joined Capstone Bank, where he was senior lender until its merger with SmartBank in 2017. Today, he manages a team of nine commercial relationship managers and six commercial loan administrators across seven branches that serve Clarke, Washington and Tuscaloosa counties. Groeschell says he is grateful to SmartBank for investing in his professional growth, including being part of the Bank Executive Leadership training program. He has earned several licenses over the years, as well as completing the Bankers 2 Lenders program of the Alabama Bankers Association. Groeschell is very active in his community, serving on several boards and as a volunteer.
Rebecca Hallman is vice president, human resources director of River Bank & Trust in Prattville. She joined River Bank & Trust in 2006 and has played an active role in the bank’s three successful mergers. A graduate of Troy University Montgomery, she also holds a certificate in human resources from Auburn University Montgomery and is currently enrolled in the Graduate School of Banking at LSU. She began her banking career in 2001 at Colonial Bank as a teller and moved up the ranks. She is also active in the community, volunteering her time to scholarship committees, local job fairs and high school programs teaching life skills. She is director of the Autauga County 911 Board and is very active in the River Region United Way campaigns and her church.
Kristin Harville is senior vice president of compliance and Bank Secrecy Act officer of Southern States Bank. She has 18 years of banking experience. She joined Southern States when it was just getting its start in 2007 and has helped the bank grow, implementing many of the training, IT services and operational services the bank offers. Prior to her tenure at Southern States, she served as a state bank examiner and worked at another community bank. A Jacksonville State University graduate, Harville also graduated from the Barret School of Banking in Memphis and holds multiple certifications. She currently is attending Florida State University to obtain her Juris Master in Law. She volunteers at her child’s school, with the Girl Scouts and has worked with the local city council members in Lincoln on projects, most recently with an ordinance to reduce speeding in the community.
David Hedges is executive vice president and chief financial officer of AuburnBank and its parent company, Auburn National Bancorporation Inc. Hedges is responsible for the financial reporting and accounting functions, including regulatory reporting to the SEC and the Federal Reserve. Prior to joining AuburnBank, Hedges served with KPMG LLP, where he worked with multiple banks as clients. A graduate of Samford University with both bachelor and master’s degrees, Hedges is also a licensed Certified Public Accountant. In the community, Hedges is a volunteer coach with boys and girls youth basketball with the City of Auburn Parks and Recreation Department, as well as serving as a member of Auburn Kiwanis Club.
Joseph Hunt is executive vice president and compliance officer for Farmers & Merchants Bank. A graduate of Cleburne High School and the University of Alabama, Hunt has worked since 2004 with Farmers & Merchants Bank in Piedmont. He also serves on the City of Heflin Planning and Zoning Board and is an active member of Heflin Baptist Church.
Alex Jones is a founder, senior managing director and president of UB Community Development and executive vice president with United Bank. In his role, he has helped underwrite and deploy more than $500 million in loans and investments into low-income community projects in Alabama, Florida and Mississippi. He also helped lead United Bank’s application and receipt of $40 million in funding from the USDA Rural Development’s Community Facilities Relending Program, which helps support public safety, public utilities and municipalities through funding. He is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and earned his MBA from Auburn University. He also is a graduate of the Graduate School of Banking at LSU. With more than 19 years of service as a reservist, he is a commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve. Prior to joining United Bank, he worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Regions Bank. He is also very active in the community, serving as a board member of the Escambia County Industrial Development Board, City of Atmore Planning Board and the South Alabama Regional Planning Commission Revolving Loan Fund.
Cole Justice is assistant vice president and branch manager of First Southern State Bank in Fort Payne. A graduate of Northeast Alabama Community College and Jacksonville State University, Justice is also a graduate of the Alabama Banking School. He began his
banking career with First Southern State Bank in 2012 as a part-time teller and has worked his way up. He also is a partner in Safe Circle Investments LLC. During his time with First Southern, he has helped increase the number of households being served by the bank by 20% and was instrumental in assisting businesses in obtaining PPP funding, personally assisting 524 businesses with their loans. Justice is very active in the community serving on numerous boards including the Fort Payne Kiwanis Club, the Fort Payne High School
Career Tech Advisory Committee for Business Education, the Fort Payne Entrepreneurial Center Development Board, Fort Payne Rotary Club and more.
Max Karrh is senior vice president, commercial banker with Bryant Bank. A graduate of the University of Alabama and the Graduate School of Banking at LSU, Karrh got his start in banking with Regions Bank, where he served for eight years rising through the ranks to vice president and commercial banker. He then joined Bryant Bank in 2005, where he has spent the last 16 years. Karrh has been and continues to be very active in his community, previously serving on the boards of Tuscaloosa YMCA and Youth for Christ. He currently serves on the boards for the American Christian Academy, Tuscaloosa’s American Cancer Society, Tuscaloosa Children’s Center and Arts N Autism.
Scott Killman is a senior vice president, commercial banker with CB&S Bank. Killman
has more than 20 years of commercial, industrial and real estate banking experience. The Auburn University Montgomery graduate is also a certified treasury professional and served in the U.S. Army National Guard. He started his banking career with Regions Bank, but then served three years as a financial analyst and controller for aerospace and real estate companies before coming back to banking, where he expanded his experience as a credit underwriter, relationship manager and senior vice president. Killman has served on a variety of boards including Landmarks Foundation/Old Alabama Town Executive Board, AUM College of Business Advisory Board and Lions Club. He also coaches youth sports.
Clint Kirkland is senior vice president of professional and healthcare banking with Progress Bank in Huntsville. Kirkland began his banking career right after high school, starting as a courier/bookkeeper assistant at Jacobs Bank in Scottsboro. A graduate of Northeast State Community College and Jacksonville State University, Kirkland continued his banking career while attending school. After earning his MBA in 2000, he moved to Huntsville, where he worked with SouthTrust and later with AmSouth Bank. He has been with Progress Bank since its inception in 2008. He has completed the Alabama Banking School and Alabama Bankers Association’s Bank Executive Leadership program. Kirkland serves on the boards of Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Alabama, The Community Free Clinic, Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce, Huntsville Hospital Foundation and others.
Jason Kocher is assistant vice president, commercial relationship manager of Trustmark
National Bank. A graduate of Auburn University, Kocher started his banking career with Regions Bank as a bank officer before moving to BB&T as a corporate training specialist. He came to Trustmark in 2010 as a bank officer, moving up to assistant vice president of private banking before taking on his current position in 2020. In the community, Kocher has participated in the Loaned Executive Program with the River Region United Way and serves as finance committee chair and executive board member of Frazer Church. He also is a coach with Sonshine Soccer and has participated in Success by Six with Montgomery Family Guidance Center. He also is a member of the Medical Group Management Association of Montgomery.
DeMarco McClain has more than 20 years of banking experience with an emphasis on commercial lending and commercial loan underwriting. He serves as senior vice president, sales officer with Bank Independent. McClain earned his bachelor’s degree from Auburn University and his MBA from Troy University. He also is a graduate of the Alabama Banking School and is currently enrolled in the Graduate School of Banking at LSU, where he serves as class officer. McClain serves on the board of on the City of Huntsville’s Public Building Authority. He also serves on the board of governors for the Von Braun Center. He is an advocate for Bank Independent’s Helping Hands initiative. He volunteers with Christian Women’s Job Corp Madison County and the Village of Promise and is a graduate and volunteer of Leadership Greater Huntsville Connect Class 14.
Katiya McKinney is vice president, sales and marketing director of Progress Bank in Huntsville. Prior to joining Progress Bank, she worked for five years with Redstone Federal Credit Union and a little over two years with Listerhill Credit Union. She also has experience in retail marketing. She is a graduate of Mississippi University for Women and earned her MBA at the University of North Alabama. McKinney is active in her community, volunteering with Mill Creek Elementary PTA, Huntsville Botanical Gardens, Blount Hospitality House and Community Free Dental Clinic. She also serves as a member of Public Relations Council of Alabama (North AL), American Advertising Federation of North Alabama, American Heart Association-Huntsville and as treasurer of the Alabama Advertising Education Foundation.
Mason Morris is vice president, commercial loan officer of Southern States Bank. A University of Alabama and Bank Executive Leadership Certification Program graduate, Morris started his career in banking with Cadence Bank in 2012. He expanded his banking career through positions at BBVA Compass Bank and ServisFirst Bank before joining Southern States Bank in 2017. In his four years with Southern States Bank, he has helped grow the Birmingham office’s commercial portfolio and currently manages a $50 million portfolio. Morris is also well connected in the community, serving on several boards as a member of the Rotaract Club of Birmingham, Exceptional Foundation Junior Board, United Way Allocations Team, United Way Young Leaders Society and BridgeWays and helped start the Mountain Brook High School business incubator program.
Ashley Palmer is head of operations at First National Bank of Hamilton. A summa cum laude graduate of the University of North Alabama, with both bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Palmer served as a staff accountant at Abroms and Associates in Florence before joining First National Bank. Palmer is active in the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce and serves as a first responder, board member and treasurer with the Byrd Volunteer
Fire Department. Palmer is president of the Hamilton Kiwanis Club, a board member of the Miss Hamilton Pageant and a volunteer assistant coach of the JH Hamilton Lady Aggies Softball Team. She currently is enrolled in the Alabama Bankers Association’s Bankers 2 Lenders program.
Lee Pritchett is senior vice president responsible for IT and operations of Robertson Banking Co. He also is a member of the bank’s senior management team and is secretary of its board. Pritchett began his banking career at Planters Bank and Trust Co., which became part of Robertson Banking Co. in 1999. A graduate of Auburn University, Pritchett completed the Graduate School of Investments at Vanderbilt University and the Graduate School of Banking at LSU, as well as the Alabama Bankers Association’s Executive Leadership Program. In the community, Pritchett is a member of the Industrial Development Board of Demopolis, the Demopolis Area Business Council and is past president of the Rotary Club.
Brian Ralph is branch administrator with Peoples Bank of Alabama. A graduate of Mississippi State University, Ralph worked in the golf industry for two years before beginning his 15-year banking career with AmSouth/Regions Bank. With Regions, Ralph served as branch manager in Leeds and Trussville for almost six years before moving to consumer sales manager in Tuscaloosa, where he served for two years. In late 2015, Ralph began working with Peoples Bank of Alabama, where he worked as a retail sales manager until late 2020, when he became branch administrator. He also
is a member of the Bank Executive Leadership Certification Program Class of 2020. In his community, Ralph coaches youth sports.
Chase Schmidt is senior vice president of Community Bank
in Fairhope. Schmidt is a graduate of Auburn University, and he also graduated from the Alabama School of Banking and the E.J. Ourso Graduate School of Banking at Louisiana State University. Schmidt has 10 years of banking experience. He started with Community Bank in 2015 as a loan officer and has progressed to his current position, including opening the bank’s Fairhope branch in 2019. Schmidt is also active in the community, serving as president of the Kiwanis Club of Daphne/Spanish Fort and as a member of the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce’s Youth Leadership Committee. He also volunteers as a financial literacy instructor with Junior Achievement of Mobile.
Jason Windham has more than 23 years of banking experience in Alabama and currently serves as a member of the executive team at Bank Independent. As president of Interstate Billing Service, a subsidiary of Bank Independent, Windham is responsible for overseeing the company’s overall growth. Prior to joining Bank Independent, Windham was with First National Bank of Jasper and spent 12 years as an examiner with the Alabama State Banking Department. A graduate of Troy University and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he earned his MBA, Windham is also a graduate of the LSU Graduate School of Banking and the Alabama Banking School. He is on the board for Bankers 2 Lenders and Mars Hill Bible School in Florence.