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Local bank leader retires after 41 years

Merritt’s tenure reflects changing banking environment

President of Dolores State Bank Ed Merritt is retiring after 41 years.

Merritt grew up in Dolores and went on to be one of the financial leaders of the community.

Under his leadership, Dolores State Bank steadily grew. When he started in 1976, there was just the one branch in Dolores. Now there are four locations, including two in Cortez and one in Mancos. The bank also has a loan production office in Telluride.

In 1976, Dolores State had $11 million in assets and eight employees.

“Today, we have $250 million in assets, five locations and over 50 employees,” Merritt said.

He said a lot has changed in the industry during his time. Forty years ago, the bank did not have a drive-up teller, there were no ATMs, and the lobby closed at 3 p.m.

“Everything was hand-posted and hand-sorted,” he said. “Bank consolidation was another major change.”

When Merritt started, there were 18,000 banks nationwide. Now, there are 6,000.

He said the best part of running a smalltown bank is being involved in every aspect of the operation.

“From shoveling the walks, to teller work, to doing investments and loans,” he said. “I got to do it all. Working with a great staff and a great board makes all the difference.”

Merritt’s biggest accomplishment is working with the community and helping “people’s dreams come true. I love being a part of that – $144 million in loans went to people in Montezuma and San Miguel counties.”

Buying Mancos Valley Bank was another highlight, he said.

“It used to be owned by a family from Chicago. Now, it is a locally owned bank,” he said.

Merritt credits Dolores State Bank’s success to conservative lending criteria.

“Our philosophy is that the customer has to have a lot of skin in the game, because then you are going to hang in there a lot longer,” he said.

And surviving the 2008 recession?

Merritt credits good capital, “banking the old-fashioned way” and a board that is from the area and understands the community.

“It is tough to make a living here, but at the same time, we don’t have the highs and lows of other places that have huge speculations and developments,” he said.

“That is why we come through the tough times and keep growth steady.”

He credits Montezuma County’s diverse economy – agriculture, oil and gas, construction, recreation, tourism, public lands, and the service industry – for avoiding a boom-and-bust cycle.

“Our economy will continue to grow because we are a desirable place to live with a nice climate, mountains and deserts, great recreation, amazing archaeology, nice towns, strong water rights and agriculture,” he said. “We have a lot of potential.”

For retirement, Merritt is looking forward to spending more time with his grandchildren, and plans to stay involved with the community.

Doug Akin will take over as president of the bank.

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