MOUNT PLEASANT - You might say banking is in Betty Campbell's blood.
Her great-great-grandfather, Joseph Kithcart, served on the first board of directors of the Peoples National Bank of Mount Pleasant, chartered in 1903. Her father, Robert W. Walker, joined the bank in the mid-1950s and for more than 50 years was its chairman and chief executive officer.
Campbell herself joined the bank's board of directors seven years ago, in 2004, and currently serves as its president a pretty significant career redirection for Campbell, who had been a school teacher up to that point. Her brother, David, joined the board of directors after their father's passing in 2005. Though his home is in Florida, he returns to Jefferson County each month for board meetings.
ALL IN THE FAMILY — Betty Campbell continues in a long line of family connections at the Peoples National Bank of Mount Plesant. Campbell joined the bank’s board of directors seven years ago, in 2004, and currently serves as its president.
-- Linda Harris
"I'd taught German, history and computers in middle school and high school," she said. "I was at the point where I was ready for a change, so I came back and took care of my dad the last years of his life. He wanted me to be on the board, so I started going to the meetings with him. As it turned out, I liked it a great deal."
The bank is privately held. Thanks to Campbell's father, who had the foresight to buy up stock as it became available, most of the shares are held by members of the family, including three other Walker siblings as well as assorted cousins.
"My father wanted to keep control of the stock, make sure the bank was in good hands," she said. "This is the last bank in Jefferson County that has a home office in Jefferson County. We are unique in that sense."
Though he knew nothing about banking when he started, Campbell said her father was a quick learner. The Depression had taught him to be conservative with money, "make sure he could cover his debts." He brought that same conservative vibe to banking.
"He had to learn how a bank works," she said. "He'd had his own business, but banking was (new) for him. He learned the business, and turned it into a full-service bank."
Despite his advanced years, Campbell said her father had a keen appreciation for technology and embraced change.
"He was very forward-thinking," she said. "He was very into computers, fascinated by what they could do he was in his late 70s, but he wanted the bank to have the best computers we could get and then he went to Belmont Tech and took classes so he could use them. When he was in his 90s, he saw me use my debit card he was fascinated by it, he thought we should get into it."
One of their latest forays has been into indirect lending, working with 42 area dealerships to offer loans to eligible car buyers. Campbell sees it as an opportunity to build banking relationships with people far outside their traditional service area.
"It's expanded our reach," she said. "We've been really pleased, a lot of people who had loans with us through the indirect method have come back to us for direct loans ... we had someone come in the other day from Moundsville, they'd had an indirect loan through us and now they want to come to us for a direct loan. Though we're a small bank, we can reach out into other areas."
Campbell said their staff is small, 30 people, "but we still know our customers, by voice and by name, for the most part." Peoples National also has branches in Adena and Dillonvale.
"I kind of feel my father's presence," she adds. "This was such an important part of his life, he was very proud of it. He didn't live to see his kids take leadership roles with the bank, but I think he'd be proud of the fact that we are here. He'd be very proud to see both of us involved with the bank and its future."
Whether she and her brother will pass the baton to the next generation of Walker descendants remains to be seen. Campbell said she's not sure who among them will be interested in coming to Jefferson County to carry on the tradition, "of course, I never thought I would, either."
"It's funny how a decision can turn your life into a new direction you never dreamed of going, and it turns out to be a good thing," she added.
After graduating from Adena High School, Campbell earned her undergraduate degree from Muskingum College along with a pair of master's degrees one from Valparaiso University, the other from Notre Dame.
Her brother, David, earned his undergraduate degree from Ohio Northern University, and two master's one in electrical engineering from Stanford University and another in engineering management from the University of Alaska and engineered undersea fiber optic cables, including one between the U.S. and Japan, and also served as an executive in associated telecommunications companies.