Johnson retires after 44 years in banking

Published 12:42 pm Saturday, December 16, 2017

After more than four decades in the banking industry, William Johnson, president and CEO of Community Neighbor Bank, truly went out on a high note this week.

On Monday night, a smiling Johnson waved to friends along the route while serving as grand marshal of the annual Christmas parade in Greenville. And on Thursday night, following his final day on the job, a line of well wishers waited for their chance to chat with Johnson at a reception held at the bank he has helmed for the past 14 years.

“I have to admit I felt a little bad about the line getting so long. But when people make an effort to come to an event like that, you want to take the time to speak with each one and not rush them along,” Johnson says.

And that, you might say, sums up William Johnson—a dedicated professional with that warm personal touch.

Longtime friend Lonzo Ingram was one of those in Johnson’s “receiving line,” as the Camellia City’s retired police chief called it.

“You know, in a time when so many of the small local banks everywhere are being taken over by big banks, here we have a local bank and a local banker who would go above and beyond to serve the customers,” said Ingram. “I am sure that there are people out there who couldn’t get help from other institutions over the years,  and William helped them.”

Becoming a banker was a natural fit for Johnson—a matter of following in Daddy’s footsteps.

“My father was a banker all his life. Banking was different in his day. You’ve heard of ‘bankers’ hours.’ Back then Daddy used to get home around three o’clock in the afternoon – just enough time for a little quail hunt or turkey hunt,” Johnson explained.

“That all sounded good to me, plus I liked the idea of being able to help people with their financial needs. The financial needs are still out there, but the bankers’ hours disappeared a long time ago.”

During his 44-year career in the industry, Johnson says he has worked at five different banks, gathering good memories and strong friendships from each and every one.

The biggest—and most rewarding—challenge of his career was found at the bank from which he retired this week.

“We started our branch here in Greenville in 2004, which we initially operated as the Butler County Bank.

I’ll always remember and feel close to both the employees that came to work for us early on and those first customers who took a chance on us,” Johnson recalls.

With the nation’s economic upheavals and downturns, there were certainly some difficult times along the way.

“I also remember how tough things got for us and our customers following the great recession in 2008-2009,” he says.

“That was a traumatic time for almost all banks and their customers. Thankfully most of us were able to work our way through it.”

His best memories about his years in banking definitely revolve around one thing—and it’s not money.

“The most satisfying aspect of my career has been the good friendships that have been formed over the years with both customers and fellow employees. People are what really make most jobs worthwhile,” Johnson explains.

Casey Rogers, Pioneer Electric Cooperative’s communications specialist, describes Johnson as both “charming and genuine.”

And Butler County’s probate judge Steve Norman says that even after retirement, Johnson will continue to be in demand “for his ability to put people at ease with his kindness and humble manner.”

Norman adds, “William’s been a great friend to, and member of, Greenville and Butler County’s business communities for so many years.”

Johnson, who has served the community as a member and past president of the Greenville Rotary for almost a quarter of a century as well as his time spent on the board of the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Butler County Commission for Economic Development, says he is grateful for the opportunities he’s had to help better the lives of those around him.

Kathy Smyth, director of Safe Harbor-the Children’s Advocacy Center, describes Johnson as “a champion for local children, both personally and professionally,” one who has faithfully supported Safe Harbor and other area charities.

“I just had to show up at the reception to hug his neck and give him a great big thank you for all he’s done.”

One of CNB’s newest staff members, Joseph Longmire, says he is grateful for the time, albeit brief, he has spent on the job with Johnson.

“My first time actually meeting with Mr. William was during my job interview for a position at CNB,” Longmire explains. “During my interview, I was notified that Mr. William and some of his staff members had been keeping a close eye on me as a potential candidate for a job opportunity at CNB. Mr. William was very welcoming and showed me great hospitality.”

Longmire admits he felt a little sad when he discovered Johnson was going to be retiring soon, saying, “He just seems like such a great person to work for and with.”

His former boss feels the same way. Johnson admits he is going to miss both newer and older staff members at the bank he’s called his work home for the past 14 years.

But he also definitely feels he is leaving it in the best of hands.

“Murray Fail, our city president and Al Johnson, president and CEO, are going to do a great job,” Johnson says.

“We have a lot of people in place–Allen Peterson, Ann Steiner Gregory and others–who have been with us quite a long time. They are very experienced and skilled. And we have newer people like Joseph who is such a sharp, personable and polite young man, one that I know has a great future ahead of him. I am not worried about the future of CNB.”

As for his retirement, Johnson says he hopes to spend some time enjoying the grandchildren and traveling with his wife Cheryl (“Cheryl also loves fishing, so I think some fishing trips will be happening”). And the new retiree says he has plenty of projects around the house to which he plans to attend. But he’s getting a temporary reprieve from any “honey-do” lists for the time being.

“Cheryl promised me she’d give me time off from that to do some deer hunting,” Johnson laughs.

It’s the right time to say goodbye, he believe.

“Everybody has their own reasons for retiring. Some want to keep working as long as they are physically and mentally able to keep up. I want some time to enjoy my family and hobbies while I still can—and if I want to take a nap, I can do that, too.  I do have to say that I am so very grateful to all the people who gave me so many  opportunities over the years.  I have been truly blessed.”