Anyone who has taken a trip through the heart of Lynden knows it’s a town that values its history and cherishes its roots. So, it’s no surprise that when hometown institution Peoples Bank reached its 100th anniversary, the community took notice. The bank has always prioritized its commitment to the communities it serves. Its dedication to strong fiscal responsibility has allowed it to grow and flourish over the years, including through challenging times from the Great Depression to 2008’s global recession, and more recently, the coronavirus pandemic.
Peoples Bank executive Lisa Hefter has been with the bank for 28 years. “I grew up in Lynden and went to Lynden High School,” she says. “My parents banked at Peoples, and I started as a teller here in 1992, about six months after I graduated from Central Washington University.” Hefter then worked in various roles within the bank before being promoted to Chief Financial Officer in 2009. A decade later, she was promoted to Chief Administrative & Risk Officer, and she assumed the role of Chief Operating Officer earlier this year. In October 2020, Hefter was elected to the Board of Directors of Peoples Bank and Peoples Bancorp. This kind of career longevity is not uncommon at Peoples Bank. In fact, nearly 20 employees have worked for Peoples Bank for three decades or longer.
“Like Peoples Bank, many of the country’s community banks actually started by community members coming together and establishing institutions that could respond better to the needs of local families and businesses,” explains Hefter. “Back in 1921, a group of Lynden residents established the Peoples State Bank for this same reason. We changed our name to Peoples Bank in 1996, and today our 23 branches serve customers in Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish, Island, King, and Chelan counties.”
The bank’s longevity and its sense of tradition also extend to its family leadership. “Irwin LeCocq, Sr., the grandfather of our CEO Charles LeCocq, bought a controlling interest in the bank in 1938. Charles is the third generation of his family leading the bank, and now his son Ryan also works here,” says Hefter. “Our longevity means we’ve also been fortunate to serve multiple generations of local businesses and customers. We have customers whose grandchildren have accounts with us today. It’s gratifying to be a part of the community for so long.”
To commemorate the milestone, Peoples Bank partnered with the Lynden Pioneer Museum and KAFE Radio to host a community celebration. Leading the festivities, Lynden Mayor Scott Korthuis proclaimed August 7th “Peoples Bank Day.” The Lynden Pioneer Museum, which unveiled a new Peoples Bank exhibit, offered free admission. Edaleen Dairy gave out free scoops of a special ice cream flavor—Chocolate Dipped Raspberry Ripple—created especially for Peoples Bank Day.
“Even though it was a rainy day—the first measurable rainfall we’ve had in nearly two months—we ended up serving over 300 hotdogs, and everyone had a great time,” said Will Butela, a member of the Peoples Bank marketing department who helped organize the event.
Although the hot dogs and ice cream certainly drew attendees, Butela was also glad to see the community take a moment to think about its history. “You can’t really think about Peoples Bank without thinking about its deep connection with the Lynden community,” said Butela.
As the bank moves forward, it’s bringing all of that history along with it. “One thing that is so compelling to me is our culture of commitment. We’re invested in our communities because we live and work in them, and we want to make them better places,” says Hefter.