‘It has been an honor’: Baird announces her retirement as Community Bank presidentBy BRYAN DAVIS PUBLISHER,
Cindy Baird had been quietly planning her retirement from Community Bank for a good year.
The bank’s president and 45-year employee, was hoping to slide out of the position without any fanfare, but that didn’t happen.
A press release announcing her replacement, Mitchell Hill, a couple of weeks ago was sent to The E-T, and the wording in the final draft of the article caused her phone to light up that Thursday morning.
“I was going to slide out quietly and still be here,” Baird said.
Baird’s last day as an officer of the bank will be Friday, at which point she will switch offices with Hill and remain on with the bank in an advisory position for at least a year.
“It’s been in my plans for a good year,” Baird said. “I would get close, and something would happen to put this off for a few more months so I would hold off a little while longer.’”
Baird said she is looking forward to having more time in retirement for the typical things: Grandkids, gardening, traveling and so forth; but she will still have a presence at Community Bank, and she will still be involved in helping to grow businesses in Indianola, she said.
“I actually plan to work a little bit harder now that I don’t have the responsibilities of the day-to-day work,” she said. “I’ll remain as a member of our board of directors along with our regional loan committee. My plans are to be available to advise our customers and staff whenever necessary.”
Baird said she went to work at what was then People’s Bank of Indianola right after graduating from Mississippi State with a B.S. in accounting.
She had originally planned to sit for the CPA exam and work for a local accounting firm, but that did not work out.
“When I interviewed for a local accounting job (no longer in existence), they did not want a woman,” Baird said. “The accounting firm wanted to hire me as a secretary because female accountants were not recognized at that time so when I returned home, and informed my dad, he informed me, ‘you are not going to do that.’”
Baird said her dad placed a call to Farmer Hamilton, who was president of the bank at that time, and she was hired soon after that.
“I have been in just about every position, from being a teller, to a secretary to investments,” Baird said. “My favorite job was being a teller, because I could interact with our customers.”
Baird said her least favorite job was in investments, which made the incident at the accounting firm more of a blessing.
“That’s when I knew never to pursue a CPA license, because the thought of being confined to an office crunching numbers was not appealing,” she said. “I love people and my heart is in helping them achieve their dreams”!
Baird has had many roles over the years at the bank, but she said she will miss the interaction with people the most. That goes for customers and her employees.
“Especially the staff, because they are my family,” Baird said. “You know what they say, surround yourself with the best and the rest is history!”
Over the years, Baird has helped dozens of small businesses secure loans and grants needed to jumpstart in Indianola and the surrounding area.
“Launching the Community Bank Fashion Show a decade ago has helped local merchants kickoff the Christmas shopping season with a bang each year since. This has nothing to do with fashion, it’s all about economics and the message that if you shop at home, your money stays at home in the form of sales tax revenue that provides the money to fund our city’s infrastructure!”
“All of the merchants are family,” she said. “They really are. Our families have grown up together. We worship together. We support each other, that’s what small towns are called to do.”
Baird said that as internet sales began to take more of a chunk out of downtown businesses’ pockets, and thus reduce the sales tax revenue for the city, the bank saw the fashion show as a way to showcase the best of what Indianola had to offer and emphasize what “Shop Indianola is all about!”
Community Bank recently launched Taste of Indianola, which showcases what the city has to offer in terms of restaurants.
The proceeds from ticket sales for that event go to two area missions, Delta Grace and Delta Missions. Indianola is known for its hospitality and generosity so what better way is there to share these attributes.
Those two events will be part of Baird’s legacy as they grow moving forward.
When she leaves the office at the end of the week, she’ll have a whole new list of projects to start, but she looks forward to the much-deserved downtime that is coming her way.
“I’ve got to get my house organized,” Baird said. “We recently built a cabin on the river, so I’m looking forward to going over there and not having to rush back on weekends. I have four grandchildren, and they’ve all started being involved in sports and cheerleading…I’m looking forward to that. They are my heart!”
Baird said that she plans to remain active at First United Methodist Church, and she hopes to become more involved in one-on-one conversations with businesses looking to come to Indianola and encourage them to locate here and enjoy everything Indianola has to offer.
“It has been an honor for me to lead our bank as president for the past 13 years, and it could not have been possible without the love and support from this wonderful town that I call home”!
Baird, together with her husband Bill, raised two children, Lake and Betsy. They have four grandchildren, Lilli Dawson, Baird Dawson, William Baird and Vivian Baird.