When John Ness agreed to join the First National Bank Board of Directors 35 years ago, computers weren’t a household utility, a stamp cost 13 cents and Sony had just released their new invention the Walkman – the first portable stereo.
John had been a member of the St. James community for more than 20 years when his two friends approached him and asked if he would like to be part of the board at First National Bank.
He moved to the community to play baseball in 1951. At that time, players from around the state were paid to come to St. James to play baseball. John played baseball in St. James until 1953, when a flood made its way through St. James and forced him to play in Redwood. While playing baseball in Redwood John continued to live here in St. James with his wife Barbara.
When the bank was purchased in July of 1978 from Walter Sporrey, John became one of six original members of the First National Bank Board of Directors. The group is tasked with meeting to okay loans and discuss bank business once a month.
“When we purchased the bank John came on as a director and has been a excellent director ever since,” said Myron Johnson, one of the original founders of First National Bank. “He was a business man in town and as director he was there and helped us out and was very faithful in that.”
“For me, it was fun,” said John. “We got along real well and I liked the people I was working with.”
John also liked that it allowed him to be more involved in what was going on around town. Being on the bank board offers the opportunity for expanded knowledge of the community and business connections. You will recognize the name Ness from the insurance building that still stands along First Avenue through St. James. Since John retired from insurance in 1992, his son has taken over the family business.
But, at age 85, John decided it was time to let someone a bit younger take over his seat at the board of directors. His replacement is Kurt Blomgren, an area Ag. Producer. Kurt said he was surprised when he got the call this summer.
“I was a little shocked, it’s kind of an honor,” said Kurt. “The people on the board are pretty quality people.”
Kurt has attended both the August and September meetings as a member of the First National Bank Board of Directors. He said the meetings have been very educational and he has enjoyed the experience so far. Kurt brings an agricultural background to the position, which is one reason he was selected as the newest member of the board.
Page 2 of 2 - “Agriculture is constantly evolving and I’ve seen it all, so I kind of understand it,” said Kurt.
Kurt took a few days to think about taking the position and – after talking to a few friends – decided it was a good opportunity and made the move to join the board. He is expected to be a great addition to the board and the bank is excited about having him.
“What we’re doing is going from old to new, Kurt is going to be a great new addition with his Ag. background,” said Myron. “Banking is a lot different than ‘78, and young guys are going to have to get on board.”
John attended his last board meeting in May of 2013. A couple of months later he had this to say about his retirement: “I think I’m going to miss it, as long as I keep my health. But, I knew it was time to get out.”