Dusty Rhodes retires after illustrious banking career
By Cassandra Favre
Mar 4, 2014, 18:03
Walking into the First Bank in Bay St. Louis isn't like walking into a regular bank.
There's a warm, welcoming vibe in the air.
There's a smile on every face and everyone is vying to assist.
Then you see the man himself, Charley E. "Dusty" Rhodes, Hancock County president of the The First Bank.
Friday was a bittersweet day for the employees and customers; they were celebrating Rhodes' retirement.
Bank patrons congratulated him and told him how much he was going to be missed.
Friends and co-workers said that Rhodes is leaving behind a long legacy of banking, friendship making and customer service like no other.
Rhodes was born and raised in Bay St. Louis.
"I attended St. Stanislaus and graduated in 1964," Rhodes said. "I played baseball and football. I attended Pearl River College and graduated from there in 1966 and followed that up with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from the University of Mississippi."
Devoted Family and Community Man
Rhodes has been married for 44 years to Mimi. They have three sons; Rocky, Brandon and Jeffrey. The pair have five grand-children.
"His heart and soul is with his family first,"Marilyn Finch, First Bank vice-president said, "then with his community.
"His grandchildren participate in sports and he's at every game he can make."
"When my boys were growing up," Rhodes said, "I coached little league and their soccer programs."
Rhodes is a member of the Chamber of Commerce and served as president for two years.
He serves as treasurer of the hospital board, is a member of the St. Stanislaus school board, serves on the finance committee at Our Lady of the Gulf Catholic Church and Main Street Methodist Church and is a member of the Bay St. Louis Rotary Club.
An Illustrious Banking Career
Rhodes always wanted to be a banker.
"I had relatives that did it," Rhodes said. "They became heroes for me. I respected them for working at the bank."
Rhodes' career spans 45-years, beginning in 1969 at Bay St. Louis' Merchants Bank as a teller.
"A few months later," Rhodes said, "Hurricane Camille hit and they moved the bank to Gulfport and I started working in operations over there and advanced up through the operations end and was promoted through that."
Rhodes worked for Merchants for 28 years until Whitney bought the bank.
"I left Whitney Bank in 2006," Rhodes said. "I came to First Bank in 2006 and called on the people I worked with before, some even came out of retirement to work.
"This bank felt good for our community," Rhodes said. "It was the kind of bank Bay St. Louis and Hancock County needed after Hurricane Katrina and it ended up being a perfect fit."
A Blessing to Work With
Finch has worked with Rhodes for the past 15 years and considers those years a blessing.
"He's a banker 24/7 and he's a really good guy," Finch said. "First, he talks to you and inquires as to how you're doing before he starts banking. Even though he's retiring, he's going to remain active as a local advisory member for the bank.
"He's had such an illustrious career and helped so many people, we're glad to have him."
In 1969, Mary Seymour was the first woman teller at Merchants Bank and worked alongside Rhodes.
"I could go on and on about the wonderful times we had," Seymour said. "He was a teller like me and he's wonderful to work with.
Seymour said Rhodes' top priority was always the customers.
"He treated them with respect," Seymour said, "just like he treated his employees.
"Lots of people come in just to visit and have a cup of coffee."
Seymour came out of retirement when Rhodes took over at First Bank.
"I worked part-time as a teller," Seymour said. "I throughly enjoyed working with him, every day was a great day. It's been a wonderful ride.
Bay St. Louis real estate agent Mike Meyers grew up with Rhodes and said he is one of the finest people he knows.
"He is just one of the best people I've known and dealt with personally and professionally," Meyers said.
A Banker with Vision
10 years ago, Mark and Leslie Henderson had a vision to build Mississippi's first craft beer brewery.
"Dusty was one of the instrumental people in making this brewery possible," Mark said. "Imagine a 29-year old with stars in his eyes to make the first brewery.
"He really went to bat for a couple of young punks."
Leslie said one of the hardest parts of the process was that it had never been done in Mississippi before.
"There was no precedent," Leslie said. "Judges and lawyers told us it couldn't be done.
"Dusty looked at all the research to help with this crazy thing that couldn't be done."
Mark and Leslie met with other bankers who would not help them.
"He found a way to make it happen," Mark said. "He put together a loan we could handle and we got the money to buy our equipment."
Leslie said all they had to do was get a federal permit and then submit for a state permit.
"Dusty is a banker who has vision," Leslie said. "He had the bravery and courage to make it happen."
The opening of the Lazy Magnolia brewery set a precedent in the state.
"10 years later," Leslie said, "there are eight breweries in the state and Dusty is largely responsible for craft beer brewing in Mississippi.”
After retirement, Rhodes plans to remain on the First Bank's advisory board but his main goal is to spend as much time with his family as he can.
"You just know when it's time to go," Rhodes said. "You want to go out on top. Banking is still fun for me, I don't miss any days and I love every minute of it.
"But, I'm ready to spend some quality time with my family."