Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

Cornerstones of Advocacy: How One North Dakota Banker Connects with Lawmakers in Her Small State in Big Ways

Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

Cornerstones of Advocacy: How One North Dakota Banker Connects with Lawmakers in Her Small State in Big Ways

Article excerpt

FOR VAUNE JOHNSON -- MARKET PRESIDENT for Cornerstone Bank in Dickinson, N.D.--it's the little things that make the biggest impressions. Cornerstone, whose first charter goes back to 1952 although Cornerstone itself is a 10-years-young entity with locations in both Dakotas, follows an advocacy philosophy of "get involved, stay involved." With a single U.S. representative, as well as two senators, the small political pool in which her home state swims brings many opportunities for the $820 million, 14-branch bank to make large-scale waves for the good of not only North Dakotans, but communities everywhere.

Like much of the Dakotas, Dickinson is often in the political spotlight for its place near the Bakken oil patch, and Johnson notes the advantages: "We have some unique opportunities to spend time with the delegation simply because of our smaller population and proximity to energy and oil," she says. But it's the "strong and involved leaders" at the bank who are responsible for not only building, but maintaining, successful relationships with lawmakers. These relationships--on both the state and national level--are personal for some and collegial for others, Johnson says.

"Our staff is very effective at arranging impromptu visits. And it's those nuanced relationships that you develop on a local level that really facilitate national impact," says Johnson. "One of Cornerstone's values is to be a good neighbor and contributor, and each employee is encouraged to contribute to the community. Grassroots involvement is simply an extension of that," she explains. She even brought Rep. Kevin Cramer (R) to a local school to participate in the ABA Foundation's Teach Children to Save financial education program. "He's the dad of a young child himself," says Johnson. "Unlike me, who no longer has children in the school system, other employees have an in with the teacher or the PTA. …

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