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Yes, we got to go home — twice

A community bank leader reflects on what makes Brattleboro special

Dan Yates is now happily retired as chief executive officer of Brattleboro Savings & Loan.

Brattleboro

As I prepare to retire as Brattleboro Savings & Loan’s CEO, my mind drifts back to when I — along with my wife, Edie, a recovering banker herself — first arrived in Brattleboro, and what brought us here.

Living in southwestern Connecticut, we made the decision to find a better quality of life; we didn’t need two-hour commutes (and that was only 17 miles), nor did we want to spend our lives in an area where it seemed that what was most important to people was getting a fancier car or a bigger house or belonging to an exclusive club ... blech.

I got a call one day from a headhunter asking if I knew anyone who might be interested in a job as a commercial lender in Brattleboro.

Having been to the town almost every weekend over the course of several years when I was a teenager, it took me about three seconds to say, “Of course I do — me!”

* * *

I started here with Merchants Bank (remember them?) on May 1, 1990, and stayed until the fall of 1993 when, kicking and screaming, the bank transferred me to Bradford to run three failed banks it had acquired that summer.

We loved Brattleboro, so at first I said I would not accept this so-called promotion, but two months later I was asked again and was persuaded to make the move.

After two years in Bradford, I went to turn around a bank in Lyndonville and then spent the better part of a decade in Hanover, New Hampshire, with a community bank there.

But Brattleboro stayed in our minds and hearts until a spring day in 2005, when the opportunity to return and to work at BS&L was presented to me.

It took almost no time for us to say, “Yes, we get to go home!”

* * *

After 12 years, things were certainly different in Brattleboro. Gone were some of the larger employers, including Vermont National Bank and First Vermont Bank — statewide banks that had been headquartered downtown. I remember them, too. Their seeming hundreds of employees who helped support downtown businesses were also largely gone.

I joined BS&L at a time of real transition, with the changing downtown climate followed soon after with the financial crisis of 2007.

These challenges clarified the direction I could see for our bank: We would support and grow the prosperity of our community.

Since then, we’ve supported what makes this community uncommon and wonderful.

Consider the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center, the Latchis, New England Youth Theatre, and New England Center for Circus Arts.

Consider some of our other prized assets, such as the Harris Hill Ski Jump, Landmark Trust (Naulakha), and — Holy Carlos! — what about the Retreat Farm?

* * *

What an amazing community this is.

We’re not without our challenges but, my goodness, we have something special here that is and should be envied by many.

And, to that point, how filled with gratitude am I to have had the opportunity to live and work here, not once, but twice.

How blessed am I to have developed so many relationships with people here over the years.

How fortunate am I to have been given the chance to make a difference with the help of so many wonderful people whom I get to work with every day.

The years have flown and, while I won’t be far away, I will close my thank you by this quote, often attributed to A.A. Milne:

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #697 (Wednesday, January 11, 2023). This story appeared on page C1.

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