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Keeping his ‘roots’ in banking and in Colorado

Don Root knows the banking business – and he knows people. Those two things helped him get to where he is today – manager of Farmers State Bank in Falcon, a position he’s held for more than 10 years.Root, born in 1946 in Ellsworth, Kan., grew up in a farming community. One of three children, Root’s father was a farmer and his mom was a homemaker. “Really, she was a gopher for my dad,” he said. “You know, ‘go for this’ and ‘go for that.'”In 1964, Root graduated from Ellsworth High School. He said his dad discouraged him from following in his footsteps as a farmer. “It was a tough life,” Root said. “Sometimes you made money but most of the time you didn’t. He encouraged us to do other things. My parents always preached education. It was just understood that we would go to college.”Root graduated in 1969 from Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan., where he studied business and marketing. Shortly after graduating, Root joined the U.S. Army and ended up in Germany. He enjoyed his time overseas. “Most people didn’t like it, but I had just a great time,” Root said.He said he enjoyed living abroad so much that, after completing his service time, he took a European discharge and stayed in Germany. It was there that Root got his first taste of the business world, working for an American company that sold securities and mutual funds to the U.S. military.In the summer of 1972, Root returned to Kansas. He was home for about a month before he decided to pack up an old car and head west. “I’d already been east and didn’t like it,” he said. “The weather. The bugs. So I went west, and I saw those mountains and have been here ever since.” Root got a job in the savings and loan business in Denver. With little money in his pocket and a diminishing economy, Root said he felt lucky to find a job so quickly. “There was a recession from ’72 to ’74 and that was the job that was available,” he said. “I didn’t have a lot of time or choice to be picky, but I enjoyed it.”Root’s new job and location were not the only changes in his life. While out one evening with friends, Root met Lyn, the woman who would eventually become his wife. The two married March 20, 1976, and three years later, they had a son, Byron. In 1982, their daughter, Brittony, was born.After five years, Root left what was then World Savings and went to work for Mile High Savings and then Empire Savings. He stayed in the savings and loan business until 1989 and then dabbled in the insurance business and later switched to commercial banking.Root said childhood memories of his hometown bank left a false impression. “People used to joke about banking hours,” he said. “Go to work at 9. Coffee at 10; 11:30 or 12 – closed for lunch. Open again at 1 and closed at 3.” Root said he thought those hours were “pretty good.” But he found out that the joking was just that when he took a job with the Armed Forces Benefit Association Industrial Bank, a company that specialized in insurance for military personnel. The company, headquartered in Virginia, wanted to start a credit card bank in Littleton, Colo. Not long after, Root said the bank decided to open another bank at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. It was the opening of that bank that moved Root and his family from Denver to Black Forest.Although he stayed in commercial banking, Root changed jobs again and went to work for First National Bank – now Bank One. Because of the reorganization, Root was laid off.He had a bit of luck when he found out that Farmers State Bank was opening a new branch in Falcon. The family owned bank already had a presence in Ellicott and Calhan, and Root said the Falcon addition was a perfect fit. “There were a number of customers in the area who were commuting into the Springs, and they were going right by (the bank) on Highway 24,” he said.Farmers State Bank opened in Falcon in 1996 and Root took the manager position. He said he still has a clear memory of the bank’s grand opening. “I was amazed at the number of people. It seemed like thousands,” Root said. “It was a good time. Just amazing that that many people would show up for the opening of a bank.”Over the past 12 years, Root has watched as Falcon has gone from one bank to more than a dozen. “It used to be ‘a gas station on every corner,’ but no one can afford the gas, so we have a bank on every corner instead,” he said. Root said he thinks that most of the new banks in Falcon may have moved to accommodate existing customers who lived in the area.He said competition is a good thing. “As a business, [competition] makes you better,” he said. “You don’t take things for granted and it’s good for the consumer.” Root said he knows Farmers State Bank will continue to offer the one thing that has kept its customers coming back – “good customer service.””When customers come in, we try and make new friends,” he added.Working with and meeting new customers is one of the reasons Root said he loves his job. “It’s the best bank I’ve worked for,” he said. “It’s a great place to work.”More on Don RootWhat is your favorite thing about Colorado?I love the weather and the people. And I like the diversity of the people and their talents.Name someone you admire and why.My parents were a great influence. My mother is 92 years old. Think about how they influenced you in your younger days. But I also admire people who succeed. I get to watch that. Sometimes you have a role in it and sometimes you don’t. And, of course, I admire my wife and my kids, too.What is one of your favorite vacation memories?Honeymoon time at the Grand Canyon. I’ve never had a bad vacation.What are you reading now?I just finished reading “The Empire of Debt.” It profiles the history of nations and how they handled debt and where the debt level is kind of headed.

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