BY GABE LICHT
DELANO, MN As State Bank of Delano transitions to CorTrust Bank, Steve Gilmer is transitioning to life after banking, following his retirement as CEO effective Aug. 3.
His employees, including his daughter Wendy Gilmer, are reflecting on their time working with him, and the community is welcome to join them at an open house from 4-7 p.m. Tuesday in the bank parking lot.
Of Steve’s 45 years with State Bank of Delano, Toni Althoff has worked 39 with him.
“I should’ve gotten an extra bonus for that,” she said with a laugh.
“Steve’s been awesome to work for,” added Kim Pivec, who has been at the local bank for 23 years. “He’s fun to work with. If we needed to vent, we could talk to him and he’d sit and listen.”
Althoff said employees didn’t have to worry about Steve holding anything they said against them.
“If we were having a bad day or didn’t agree with something he said or did, we could walk in there and say something,” Althoff said. “Then, it was a new day.”
He paid attention to details such as the appearance of the parking lot.
“He’d come in and have his hands full of garbage and say, ‘I found this by your car. Am I the only one who picks up garbage?’” Pivec said.
When asked what she had learned from Steve, Althoff said, “Do not misspell words.”
Laurie Langner, who worked for Steve for 20 years, added that he made sure that every email address and phone number was correct.
While spelling and grammar was no laughing matter to Steve, interacting with his employees often was.
“He allows us to be us,” Althoff said. “He likes humor in the workplace. He’s always wanted his employees to have a good time. That’s his No. 1 goal.”
They often enjoyed poking fun at when he got to the office, but acknowledged how late he stayed there and how many times he was in the office when no one else was.
“We joke about what time he got here, but he was totally devoted to the State Bank of Delano,” Althoff said. “He was here all days.”
She invited him to visit as often as he’d like, and he said he would take her up on that.
“You can come see this family anytime you want, but now it’s time to enjoy your wife and kids,” Althoff said. “They sacrificed because you put everything into this, and I think all employees know that.”
Langner and Pivec agreed, saying they often received calls and questions from Steve on weekends.
He encouraged employees to be active in the community, and he led by example, serving as treasurer of the 4th of July Celebration Committee for 40 years.
Both inside and outside the walls of the bank, Steve got to know his customers.
“It’s important to treat each customer well,” Wendy said. “He’d lead by example with that.”
Even one snowy day when many customers stayed home, Steve wanted to make sure he and his staff took care of them.
“The roads weren’t plowed. He used his snowmobile to bring employees in,” Wendy said.
“At about 1 p.m., he said, ‘Thanks for coming in. I’m going to play in the snow for a little while,” Althoff added.
She said she appreciates his dedication, which has resulted in many employees being dedicated to the bank on a long-term basis.
“Most of us have many years being here,” Pivec added.
Overall, Steve has 50 years of experience in the finance sector.
He began his career in the treasury offices of Chrysler Corporation in 1968, after earning his master of business administration from the University of Michigan. After being drafted into the US Army in 1969, he served in the Army Finance Corps and, eventually, became first lieutenant.
In 1973, he became vice president of State Bank of Delano. He went on to serve as president from 1984 to 2015, and chairman/CEO for the past three years.
He said he is most proud of the growth of the bank in that time.
Assets have grown from $8.7 million in 1973, to $95 million in 2018.
Its physical footprint has also grown, first from its original location on Bridge Avenue to its facility on Railroad Avenue, and then to its current location on Highway 12.
Aspects of the banking industry have changed in a number of ways.
For example, he remembers his first loan.
“The total paperwork was a half-page,” he said, noting that is a small fraction of the amount of paperwork now required.
In 2005, Wendy joined her father at the bank.
“I look at it as a gift,” she said. “I’m lucky to work with a family member and share that part of life. We get along quite well. I’ve learned a lot from his fair and empathetic approach to customers and employees . . . It’s been really amazing to be able to work with him here because it’s such a huge part of his life.”
Stepping away from this part of his life will free up more time to spend with family and friends, travel, do yard work, and continue his community involvement, Steve said.