Wendy Jirsa, vice president – Verona bank manager, has been elected to serve as president of the Verona Area Chamber of Commerce. The three-year term began in January 2022 and will allow Jirsa to serve in this role until December 2024. Jirsa has been with Capitol Bank since 2009 and her efforts helped Capitol Bank to become Verona’s largest bank by deposits in 2019 and 2020. Jirsa has a wealth of experience in personal and business banking, in addition to serving as a mortgage lender alongside Howard Cagle at Capitol Bank Verona.

In addition to Jirsa’s involvement with the Verona Chamber, she currently serves as the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) Visionaries of the Year team chair and was the LLS Woman of the Year in 2019. Jirsa also serves on the board for BOSS (Building Opportunities for Student Success) as secretary and treasurer.

Mark Oldenberg, president of Security Financial Bank (SFB), is pleased to announce that Krista Mayer has joined SFB as a loan portfolio analyst. Mayer’s main responsibility will be analyzing the bank’s loan portfolio to ensure compliance with credit policy and regulations.

Mayer is a graduate of Marquette University with a bachelor’s degree in finance and international business. She has 7 years of experience in SBA lending, commercial lending, and residential lending with a focus on loan analysis, review and quality.

“This is a new position we created at SFB to ensure the quality and compliance of the loans in our portfolio,” Oldenberg said. “Mayer’s broad expertise in lending and loan analysis is a great addition to our credit team.”

Mayer was born and raised in the Chicago area but is now an active member of the Chippewa Valley community. She is a board member and the Audit Committee Chair for the Girl Scouts of the Northwestern Great Lakes and secretary for the Chippewa Falls Police Department Alumni Association. She is also an active member in the Chippewa Valley Young Professionals.

Rose Oswald PoelsBy Rose Oswald Poels

I have learned of recent activity by a California law firm contacting Wisconsin banks alleging the bank’s website is in violation of the California Unruh Act. The law firm, Pacific Trial Attorneys, engaged in similar activity in Wisconsin back in 2018.

The letter alleges the firm has been retained by a blind consumer to file suit against the bank, claiming the bank’s website is not fully accessible to blind users. The letter cites a California court case which held “disability access laws apply to commercial websites, including online-only businesses.”

If your bank receives such a letter, it is important to contact your legal counsel immediately. This law firm has a history of sending these letters to banks and other businesses and then promptly filing lawsuits against the bank/business, as is threatened in the letter. I suggest you not treat these letters as a “fishing expedition” but, rather, take them very seriously and work to respond with the advice of your counsel, promptly.

The letter references a violation of California law. Bank’s counsel need be in review of bank’s products and activities to identify whether the California law is applicable to the bank. While in review of bank’s website, I recommend you also consider whether bank’s website is in violation of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (Guidelines) as the California claim could potentially change from a violation of California law to a claim regarding violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

I also suggest you work with your website vendor to be sure your bank’s website complies with any relevant law, including the Guidelines and, if not, how quickly it can be changed to comply.

I further suggest that if it is not already in your legal contract with your website vendor, you should add provisions to your contract to put the burden of ensuring your bank’s compliance with the Guidelines on the vendor. And, if any legal demand or litigation is initiated against the bank claiming a violation of ADA or the Guidelines, that the vendor is wholly responsible.

I understand that receiving these kinds of letters from plaintiffs’ law firms is not only frustrating but can be a significant distraction from normal operations. However, as more commerce is done electronically including through bank websites, it is important to not lose sight of relevant law, including ADA-related guidelines, to the same degree you follow applicable requirements for physical access to your bank. There is not going to be any legislative change that would wholly exempt bank websites from any compliance with guidelines around providing access to the public including persons with disabilities. Consequently, it is very important for you to promptly respond to any such letter you receive.

Both the ICBA and ABA have materials on their respective websites available for members on the topic of ADA digital accessibility. WBA first wrote on the topic of ADA digital accessibility in the January 2017 issue of Wisconsin Banker.

Finally, WBA is collecting letters received by its member banks. If you have received a letter, we would appreciate your sending a copy to WBA’s Scott Birrenkott at sbirrenkott@wisbank.com. If you have any questions or would like to discuss this further, please contact Scott, Heather MacKinnon, or me.

Mike Molepske, chief executive officer of Bank First (NASDAQ: BFC), is pleased to announce a new hire, Josiah Gamroth, and the recent promotions of Kristi Roush and Kathryn Schmitz.

Josiah Gamroth

Josiah Gamroth recently joined the Bank First office in Watertown as retail banker. Gamroth brings 10 years of experience in the lending industry, most recently specializing in mortgage loan origination. In his new role, he will assist new and existing retail customers in Watertown and the surrounding communities. Gamroth grew up in Oconomowoc and graduated from Lake Country Lutheran High School in Hartland. He attended Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan where he earned a bachelor’s degree in small business administration and a minor in economics. With a recent move back to Wisconsin after living in Michigan and Texas, Gamroth is looking forward to establishing himself in the Watertown community. He and his wife, Charis, enjoy reconnecting with family and life-long friends in the area, taking walks at Oconomowoc Lake, and attending community events.

Kristi Roush

Kristi Roush has been promoted to retail market manager. Roush joined Bank First in 2020 through the merger with Timberwood Bank and has over 15 years of retail banking experience. In her new role, Roush will be responsible for the overall growth and performance of the retail lending portfolio of the bank’s Tomah market while providing mentorship to the retail lending team at the Tomah office. Roush has a bachelor’s degree in marketing from UW–La Crosse. Active in her community, she is a Greater Tomah Area Chamber of Commerce Ambassador, a member of Our Town Tomah Beautification, and the treasurer for the Tomah Youth Hockey Association. In her free time, Roush enjoys shooting trap, walking, watching her kid’s many sporting events, and spending time with her husband and children.

Kathryn Schmitz

Kathryn Schmitz has been promoted to vice president – retail banking. Schmitz joined the bank in 2016 and has over 15 years of experience in mortgage lending. Over the past six years, she has proven to be a leader in mortgage production and a strong resource of knowledge for her co-workers. She is a graduate of the UW–Green Bay where she received her bachelor’s degree in business administration. Schmitz is actively involved with the Manitowoc County Board of Realtors, the Manitowoc County Home Builders Association, and the Manitowoc Ships Girls Basketball Association. She and her husband have one daughter, and they keep busy most weekends watching her play sports. In her spare time, Schmitz enjoys running, swimming, and camping.

One Community Bank (OCB) is proud to be an innovative organization that puts clients, colleagues, and community first. With this commitment, OCB has also made a promise to continue finding opportunities and solutions to clean energy and sustainability practices. PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) financing has provided OCB this novel opportunity. PACE Wisconsin is a statewide Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) program. Each participating county adopts a model ordinance and elects to join in the PACE Wisconsin Program, which offers a uniform, open-market financing solution.

OCB is thrilled to announce that we’ve been recognized as being number ONE in PACE financing in Wisconsin for 2021! This was noted in the 2021 State of PACE Annual Report which referenced 21 PACE-funded transactions in 47 participating counties in Wisconsin. OCB is thrilled to not only have the opportunity to embrace the sustainability and efficiency growth across the state, but to be a leader while doing so.

One of OCB’s PACE highlights is the current funding of a $7.5 million C-PACE transaction with Madison-based hotel developer, North Central Group. The new hotel project, known as “The Trade Milwaukee” is a 205 room Autograph Collection Hotel by Marriott located within the Deer District Entertainment Area in downtown Milwaukee, which surrounds the Fiserv Forum, home of the Milwaukee Bucks. With a focus on energy efficiencies, The Trade Milwaukee will generate costs savings of $7.7 million over the course of the hotel’s useful life.

“We are proud to continue to lead the way among Wisconsin PACE Capital Providers. One Community Bank places a great deal of emphasis on offering a variety of product choices to our clients, and the availability of PACE lending is another great example of that. The use of PACE will only continue to grow as the market demands increased energy standards to new and existing buildings. As both a PACE and first mortgage lender, we can provide some distinct advantages to our clients that separate us from our competitors.” said Dan Carey, senior market president, One Community Bank.

“As a community bank that believes in sustainability, we are committed to doing our part to support renewable energies and socially responsible business decisions. We see our leadership in the PACE program as a cornerstone to a greener future for all communities.” said Steve Peotter, president and CEO of One Community Bank.

One Community Bank will continue to look for opportunities to find renewable energy solutions in future projects. We look forward to continuing to grow our footprint in sustainable solutions to drive community-wide clean energy benefits.

First Business Bank is pleased to welcome Laura Garcia as chief risk officer.

Laura Garcia has 25 years of extensive experience in credit and compliance, most recently working with BMO. She also has valuable experience working in sales, developing training programs, serving as a mentor, and in community engagement. Garcia has worked on many large projects over her career and led BMO’s commercial PPP lending operation.

She has a bachelor of arts in economics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and resides with her husband and family in Lisle, Ill.

“We’re very fortunate Laura is joining us at First Business Bank,” said Dave Seiler, chief operating officer of First Business Financial Services, Inc., parent company of First Business Bank. “Her experience will be a great attribute for our company as she paves the way in this new and important role.”

Mark Zulliger

Tomahawk Community Bank has announced the appointment of Mark Zulliger as CEO. Zulliger will oversee all operations and strategic planning for the future of the bank. Zulliger brings more than 30 years of banking experience to his role. Zulliger started his career in banking as a part-time teller in college and he propelled to his first leadership role in 1998 and CEO role in 2005. He most recently served as the CEO and president of Merrill Federal Savings and Loan and worked on the 2016 merger that brought the Tomahawk and Merrill banks together.

“It was always the intent of our merger to bring two great organizations together and ultimately create a succession plan to bring together the leadership, securing a long and successful future for our joint financial institution. The past five years have allowed us to work in unison to develop a shared culture and bring our teams together to best serve our customers of today and tomorrow. My shift into this role was a very purposeful part of that plan to excel this organization that shares over 170 years of combined community history. I am excited to see us into the next 170 years.” Zulliger said.

Former CEO Kathy Rankin, who has held the role in Tomahawk for the past 12 years and jointly since the two community banks merged, will continue her leadership taking on the role of president and remaining on the board.

“I have enjoyed an extremely rewarding career at Tomahawk Community Bank for 40+ years. The joy experienced serving the community is unparalleled. The friendships formed with community members and co-workers are priceless,” Rankin said. “Succession management becomes a great focus as an executive reaches various milestones in their career. Over five years ago as we analyzed the future of the bank, it was apparent that a growth strategy of a merger with Merrill Federal Savings and Loan would certainly be in the best interest of both organizations.

Rankin said the timing was right for the move, “The CEO/president of Merrill Federal Savings and Loan, Mark Zulliger, was a great fit as a successor executive to lead the combined organization forward. We worked closely together for the first five years post-merger to join these two strong, community focused organizations together along with their varying cultures while assessing our employee strengths to prepare for some upcoming retirements of key executives. With that success behind us, it was fitting to turn over the reins to lead the organization forward.”

Zulliger said the strength of past leadership is evident, “This is far from a good-bye or a departure for Kathy, she will continue to act as an engaged member of not only our day-to-day operations but as a community champion as well. Moving forward it is my hope that Kathy can spend even more time representing us at events and in area organizations where she has always been known to have a huge impact. That legacy will only continue to grow.”

Board chairman, Ron Garrison said growth and strength have been in the forefront as the bank takes its next steps. “Kathy and Mark are both exceptional leaders, who care deeply for their community, customers, and staff. We have always known the combined strengths of both organizations would carry us far into the next century. This transition will allow us to continue the dedicated service to our customers and our communities that they expect, along with maintaining our customer-owned mutual bank status.”

Pictured left to right are: Jovo Potkonjak, BankWork$ program manager; Foumi Sudheer; Kathryn Socher; Tiana Rivera; Adriene Wright, BankWork$ instructor; See Yang; Laretha Gransberry; Brianna Edwards; and Daryll Lund, WBA executive vice president.

The March BankWork$ class has now graduated! The Wisconsin Bankers Association is proud to partner with Employ Milwaukee to bring this nationwide program to Wisconsin. BankWork$ is a free, eight-week training program to prepare participants in primarily underserved neighborhoods for retail banking careers.

This graduating class of six included Brianna Edwards, Laretha Gransberry, Tiana Rivera, Kathryn Socher, Foumi Sudheer, and See Yang. WBA’s Daryll Lund attended the ceremony and congratulated the graduates on their achievement.

Over the eight weeks, these students learned the hard and soft skills necessary for entry-level retail and operations positions. The program began in 2019 and has so far provided more than 4,000 graduates in the Milwaukee area the opportunity to begin a career in banking.

Thank you to the following banks for sponsoring this program:

  • Associated Bank, Green Bay
  • Bank Five Nine, Oconomowoc
  • First Federal Bank of Wisconsin, Waukesha
  • First Midwest Bank, Milwaukee
  • Johnson Financial Group
  • PyraMax Bank, Greenfield
  • Spring Bank, Brookfield
  • The Equitable Bank, Wauwatosa
  • Waterstone Bank, Milwaukee
  • Wells Fargo