Banker says retirement is simply a ‘long-term vacation’

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 2, 2001

Features Editor

After 21 years of serving the financial needs of the people of Pike County, Jack Norton had decided to take a long-term "vacation" from Troy Bank & Trust.

Some might choose to call Norton’s departure on Dec. 31 a "retirement," but Norton plans to "hang around" the bank often enough that his leaving will be more like a vacation than a retirement.

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The bank has planned a reception for Norton from 2 until 3:30 p.m Wednesday. His last official day at the bank will be Dec. 31, but, Norton will remain with TB&T in a consulting role.

"I think, with the experience and knowledge I’ve gained over the years, I might be a little help to the bank if I hang around," Norton said.

He also might be able to facilitate the transition from his customers to other bank officers and, then, too, "it’s hard to leave friends."

"I haven’t had customers at TB&T," Norton said. "I’ve had friends."

As senior vice president of agricultural lending, many of Norton’s friends are farmers and he feels he is a part of the area’s agricultural community.

Over the years, he seen his "friends" though good times and bad. He has seen, up close and personal, the changing face of agriculture in Southeast Alabama and he has concerns about the future of agriculture in this area.

"I’ve seen peanuts, corn and cotton dwindle and farmers fall by the wayside,’ Norton said. "When the margin between what it costs a farmer to raise a crop and what he gets for his crop is so thin, a farmer just can’t make it.

"Many of our farms have diversified to include poultry in the last five or six years. Poultry has been good to a lot of people. We’re seeing more poultry farms and more cattle being raised and less row crops being planted. And, there is uncertainty as to what the new farm bill is going to do us."

As these circumstances and issues brought Norton and his "friends" together for business, they also brought him closer to them personally.

"In dealing with farmers, I have been dealing with the finest folks in the country," he said. "When they hurt,

I hurt. The hardest thing I’ve had to do in my job is say ‘no’ to a farmer. Saying ‘no’ was sometimes saying ‘Mr. Farmer, you’re going to have to shut down your operation.’ That was the most stressful, disturbing, bothersome thing I had to do."

Fortunately, the times of saying ‘no’ were few and far between. Most of the times were good times. "The best thing is helping a farmer count his money when he’s had a good crop and can pay you in full," Norton said, laughing. "Seriously, it makes me feel good when a farmer’s had a good year and he can buy things he needs and some of the things his family wants. Farmers are ‘salt of the earth’ people. They are good down home folks who work hard and make life better for all of us. I’ve been proud to be among them and to call them friends."

Of course, not all of Norton’s TB&T "friends" have been farmers. He has had "friends" in all walks of life and his co-workers are like family. He will miss them all. That’s why he’s not going too far away.

And, when Norton no longer goes to TB&T on a daily basis, he said will look back on his career knowing, if he had it to do over, he would not change a thing.

His plans are to spend his "vacation" fishing and checking off his "honey-do" list.

He wants to spend

more time with his family – his wife, Mary Ann, his daughter, Terri Dunn, and her husband, Jimmy, and most of all his grandchildren,

Alex and Katie.