AUGUSTA — Mark L. Johnston, the public, personable face of Kennebec Savings Bank for more than a dozen years, plans to retire as a full-time banker June 16, 2015 — the day he turns 62 — and turn over the reins to his board-approved successor Andrew E. Silsby, executive vice president and chief operating officer.
“I will celebrate 40 years of being in the banking business,” Johnston said. “And it’s time to move on.”
Under the transition plan, Silsby will be named president of the bank in June 2014 and assume the CEO role a year later.
“Andrew has been ready for a while,” Johnston said on Tuesday during an interview with both men in the sun room of the historic Tappan-Viles House on Memorial Circle. The bank restored the 1817 Federal-style building as its headquarters and built onto it.
While Johnston will remain on the board of Kennebec Savings Bank, he and his wife, Judy, plan to travel in the state and elsewhere and spend more time at their property in Belgrade. Their daughter, Elizabeth, is a college student.
“I’m not going to work anywhere else,” Johnston said.
But don’t look for him to go too far or give up the keyboard.
Johnston will remain as organist at Jefferson’s Bunker Hill Baptist Church. “I’ve done that longer than banking,” he said. “I might reassess at 50 years, but it’s a labor of love for me.”
Johnston, who grew up in Jefferson, was 14 when he agreed to substitute on the piano one Sunday and has been there ever since. His father is still in charge of the two wood stoves that heat the church that is open only during the summer, and his mother has been active with the Ladies’ Aid Society for 60 years.
Johnston is likely to continue his public piano playing as well and hopes to take up the bagpipes to honor his Scottish heritage and wear the family plaid.
Johnston, who has been president and chief executive officer at Kennebec Savings Bank since 1999, joined the bank in 1992 as vice president and senior lending officer, coming with 17 years of banking experience, most recently with Fleet Bank.
As a local banker, he’s also deeply involved in a variety of community endeavors and bank activities.
Tuesday was Employee Appreciation Day at Kennebec Savings Bank, with a costume ball set for the evening at the nearby Governor Hill Mansion.
Johnston’s well-known fondness for doughnuts dictated his white baker’s costume, complete with a Krispy Kreme hat and fresh doughnuts from a local Tim Horton’s.
He’s also donned plenty of cycling gear to ride on the bank’s Loan Rangers team which participates annually in the Maine Lung Association’s Trek Across Maine and running gear to race in a variety of community fundraisers.
An injury has left him a little hobbled, so he’s walking for exercise, rising about 4 a.m., making a stop to police the area around the stand-alone electronic banking center not far from his Manchester home, collecting customer cards captured by the ATM to bring them to the Augusta headquarters for return, replacing the lollipop supply etc. He’s serves on a number of area boards, including that of MaineGeneral Health.
Silsby, 47, of Manchester, was hired by Kennebec Savings Bank as a loan officer in 1993, and rose through the ranks. He was promoted to executive vice president in 2008, and has been groomed for the top job. Johnston was too prior to his succeeding William Pelletier, and he succeeded Raymond Pepin. “It’s been an orderly transition in all three cases,” Johnston said.
Silsby looks comfortable in a banker’s suit. He bought his first one at age 18 at Farrell’s Department Store on Water Street in Augusta, and marched into Norstar Bank to secure a job as a floating teller.
Johnston, then 32, worked at the same bank at the time.
While Silsby might lack Johnston’s musical ability, his hobbies tend to clock-making and cabinet-making. He’s also busy with activities of three children, a freshman, sophomore and senior at Cony High School.
He says he’s deeply honored to be named Johnston’s successor, and Johnston acknowledged that they each have different strengths.
For instance, while Johnston was riding the three-day trek, Silsby was at the bank, making sure everything ran smoothly.
“The key is to run a good bank,” Silsby said. “It’s a team approach. There is a transition at the top. There is no change in course or plan for the organization, we will still try to be a wonderful, community bank.”
Johnston echoed that, saying he’s coined the bank, “The SS KSB.”
“You don’t take 90-degree turns,” he said. “This ship set sail in 1870 and is still going. It’s important that this ship keep going for another 140 years plus, that it keep delivering services and the common person is able to save money and get a mortgage.”
Kennebec Savings Bank, a state chartered bank regulated by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, reports almost $800 million in assets, 107 employees and branches in Farmingdale, Waterville and Winthrop, along with the Augusta office. Assets were $158 million when Johnston started, and the bank had 39 employees.
The bank weathered the global financial crisis of 2007-2008 with equanimity.
“We’re a very conservative lender,” Johnston said. “We’ve stuck to business as we’ve always done. We maintain a good, high quality balance sheet and good capital.”
Betty Adams — 621-5631