Jim Lindberg: Bank Leader, Bridge Builder

A special guest at Friday’s retirement open house for Jim Lindberg was his mother, Ruth, who posed for a photo with son and grandson, Jeffrey Lindberg. Below, Jim points to members of an Elim Lutheran Church confirmation class from 1929 as Marine resident Charles Arnason listens. (Photos by Cliff Buchan)

After 43 years at Security State Bank of Marine, retirement calls

Cliff Buchan
News Editor

In the banking world of Marine on St. Croix and Scandia, Jim Lindberg won’t call himself a trailblazer. The banking history of these two communities was built in rock by the work of men like Henry Johnson, Ray Strand, Edsel Johnson and Wendell Johnson.

Lindberg came into the banking picture much later, joining the institution in 1969. Now some 43 years, Lindberg has walked the same path as his predecessors, retiring on Friday, Jan. 27, serving the past 28 as bank president.

While the trail have been blazed for Lindberg by those who came before him, he faced challenges of his own that included modernizing the bank, presiding over growth and making sure that the bank was serving the community while remaining profitable. He became a bridge builder from the successful ways of the past to banking methods of the 21st century.

“It’s been a real good run for me,” Lindberg said from his office in Scandia on his last day last week, calling himself “blessed, fortunate and lucky.”

Not bad for a home town kid who left high school in Forest Lake in 1964 uncertain about where his future would take him.

And Lindberg certainly did preside well over the bank.

He was one of a half dozen employees at the Marine on St. Croix office in 1969.

As 2012 opened, he ran a bank operation with insurance agencies in Marine, Scandia Lindstrom and Forest Lake with more than 30 employees. It was a time of growth, too. Since 1984 and his appointment as president, the bank recorded growth in total assets from $11 million to $110 million today.

Security State Bank of Marine also can boast of a 10 percent equity rate as a sign of its profitability.

He Learned Well

That the bank has succeeded is not something which Lindberg will claim sole credit. While he had played a key role, it is also a result of the work of many employees, all pushing in the same direction, he said.

Along with the Johnsons and Strand, Lindberg says his success was also a result of the help he received from Olga Zimmer, Astrid Russell, Lila Spjut, Kathy Jemelka and June Johnson to name a few.

“These are people who I worked with who are gone now,” he said.

It was Henry Johnson and Edsel Johnson who brought Lindberg into the business in 1969. “They exposed me to their experiences in banking,” Lindberg said.

Lindberg passed his early tests, thanks in part to the many veteran staff members who could answer questions or give advice.

“I needed the help getting through that period,” he said. “I relied on other people and their expertise. I got to know the banking business from them.”

It was that early training that helped shape Lindberg’s philosophy. “You need to rely on people to help you do good things,” he said. “That’s what happened to me.”

It was that training that helped him in customer relationships and dealing with staff employees. During his tenure as president, the staff ranks have been dominated by long-term employees who have enjoyed their work.

Early Years

Lindberg spent his first nine years on a farm in Scandia near the intersection of Highway 97 and Oakhill Avenue. He is the son of Randolph and Ruth (Hawkinson) Lindberg. His father died in 1989 but his mother has remained in her Scandia home town.

He spent his first six years in rural one-room schools in Scandia. After five years at Hay Lake School and one year at Goose Lake School, he completed his secondary schooling in Forest Lake, graduating in 1964.

He went on to Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, earning a double major in business and economics. He graduated in 1968 after spending his final year in school studying, selling life insurance and marrying Kristen Johnson, daughter of Edsel and Mignon Johnson on June 28, 1968. He continued his work in insurance for the next year

After joining the bank in Marine in 1969, he spent a year working for the bank’s insurance agency before moving over to the banking side.

It was a hectic time for the young couple. He enlisted in the Minnesota National Guard after college and served five years, utilizing his two-week summer vacation from the bank for his mandatory two weeks of summer Guard duty at Camp Ripley.

For Lindberg, the first 15 years of his bank career were spent learning the ropes, building credibility and subtly bringing in changes that would help the bank grow and prosper. By 1984 he was just 38 years of age, but ready to lead.

“They put some trust in me back in 1984,” Lindberg said. “I was challenged. I was the vehicle of change.”

What’s Next?

Lindberg gradually backed off from his duties at the bank the past several years. Greg Isaacson, a long-time staff member, has become the bank’s fifth president in its 93 years.

For now, Lindberg says,he wants to slide away from the seriousness of the banking world to have fun and spend time with family and friends. He will remain as chairman of the bank’s board of directors and plans to hold that slot for another seven years until his reaches 50 years of service.

Jim and Kristen have two children and three grandchildren. Jeffrey (Karen) Lindberg live in Wyoming and Becky (Rob) Brunette live in Ham Lake. There will be more family time, for sure, he says.

His retirement in no way signals an end to the family’s long-standing involvement with the bank. Isaacson, in fact comes from the Lindberg side of the family tree while two other key employees, Adam Wojtowicz, a vice-president and board member, and Mackenzie Johnson, are from the Johnson side of the family tree.

It is that family tree that helped guide Lindberg along his 43-year career with Security State Bank of Marine. He learned early that it could be helpful and wise to pass up a chance to speak too quickly and to appreciate what goes into being a good banker.

“It’s easy to be someone’s banker when the times are good,” he said. “You need a good banker during the hard times. I admire those [bankers] who work through adversity.”