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Citizens Bank celebrates 85th year

Staff report • Nov 6, 2019 at 6:30 PM

ELIZABETHTON — Citizens Bank is celebrating its 85th year in business.

Under the leadership of Dr. E.L. Caudill Sr. and Attorney Raymond C. Campbell, the founders raised the necessary capital mandated by the State Banking Commission to receive a charter in 1934.

Citizens Bank opened its doors in the former First National Bank building at 601 E. Elk Ave. in downtown Elizabethton.

Decisions on bank operations and practices were based on the founding principles: (1) assurance of safety to depositors (2) a high standard of service to customers and (3) a genuine desire to serve the community.

In 1956, Campbell and Caudill decided to bring on Joe LaPorte Jr., as a loan officer. LaPorte grew up in the local community of Stoney Creek. After earning his B.S. in Accounting in 1950, he went to work for the FDIC as a bank examiner, then to Fountain City Bank located near Knoxville to sharpen his skills as a banker.

LaPorte took the reins of the bank in 1962 and started a period of growth and expansion, first by building a new main office on the site where the present-day Citizens Bank corporate office is located. In 1973, Tennessee Valley Bancorp purchased Citizens Bank’s assets under the premise that having greater financial resources would be beneficial to the communities and customers located in the smaller bank’s footprint. The conglomerate maintained the Citizens Bank brand and the local leadership with LaPorte at the helm.

In the early 1980s, LaPorte set into motion a valiant strategy that would reshape the future of Citizens Bank. The first phase was the establishment of a family-owned and operated company, Citco Community Bancshares Inc., the holding company that continues to own Citizens Bank today. From there, he made the tactical play to reacquire full control of Citizens Bank and successfully returned the company he loved to a local, community centered, financial institution.

After graduating from the University of Tennessee Joe LaPorte III joined the bank in 1979. In 1985, at the age of 29, Joe LaPorte III stepped into his father’s shoes and became the bank's fifth president. poised to continue the success synonymous with the LaPorte name. He successfully led the bank though multiple advancements and acquisitions that expanded Citizens Bank throughout all the Tri-Cities and into Knoxville, established Citizens Investment Services Inc. (a brokerage subsidiary affiliated with Raymond James Financial Advisors), and assembled a leadership team that remained focused on the core values on which the foundation of the organization was built.

Today Joe LaPorte III still leads Citizens Bank as the Chairman of the Board and CEO. “When I started banking it was the business of taking care of people and we have worked diligently to keep the bank focused on people,” said Joe LaPorte III. “Everything moves at a faster pace now; We want to keep up with today’s needs but at the same time ensure the focus stays on the business of taking care of people. We want to be different; we want to keep it personal.”

Said Bank President Larry Estepp: “Citizens Bank has been involved in helping people’s dreams come true. We will continue to seek opportunities for growth by expanding our geographical boundaries, provide innovative products and services like our SBA lending program, and deliver new technologies to our customers for improved service and convenience."

For more information about Citizens Bank visit citizensbank24.com or stop by one of their convenient locations.

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