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Bill Baker: Advocate for Ag

First on the Farm September 2019

Bill Baker: Advocate for Ag

Biran Gilbert
Ag Banking Manager

More than 130 years ago, we got our start in ag banking. To this day, our roots run deep within farm communities. The Bank and our shareholders understand the importance of agriculture, and we will continue our commitment to ag into the coming years.

As time goes on, our leadership may change, but our commitment will be as strong as ever. Many of you have probably heard that Bill Baker will be retiring from his role as CEO at the end of this year. Over the last few years, he’s been gradually stepping back from daily Bank activities, and I know we’ll be in good hands with Chris Ekstrum as president.

I have been extremely lucky to have worked for Bill for my entire career with the Bank. He truly understands that our communities are fueled by ag. Bill led the Bank during the U.S. financial crisis of 2007-2009. During this turbulent period for banking he continued to support the ag banking sector and the vital role it played in strengthening our rural economy then and now.

Bill led the Bank into the digital age with the introduction of online and mobile banking. Through his volunteerism and commitment to the community, the Bank received its first ‘Outstanding’ Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) rating.

A fourth-generation member of the Baker family, Bill joined the Bank in 1984, in the middle of the ag crisis. He learned early in his banking career the Bank’s appreciation and commitment to ag. Before that, however, during his high school years, Bill worked with his good friend Jeff Schneekloth at the Sioux Falls Stockyards herding pigs between the pens and the sale floor at the weekly feeder pig auctions. I remember hearing a funny story about them working at the Stockyards:

The two were in charge of chasing feeder pigs through the tunnel to the sale ring. There were no gates to separate the pigs; rather, each guy was responsible for keeping his group from getting mixed up with the others. One day there was a large bang in front of Bill’s group of pigs, causing the pigs to start running back toward him. The alleyway was about six feet wide, coincidentally about the same length as Bill is tall. Jeff yelled back to Bill, “Bake, lay down!” in order to stop the pigs from getting mixed up with the others. Needless to say, Bill did not lie down in the hog manure, and that may have been the point when he thought he’d be better suited for working at the family bank instead of expanding his budding livestock career.

Bill’s stories, leadership, and accomplishments will surely leave a legacy. We thank Bill for the guidance he has given the Bank over the years. We wish Bill and his family all the best, and a happy retirement.

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