Nelson moving toward retirement
Banker leaves mark on city boards, service projects
The coming month will provide many changes for Mark Nelson, vice president at Community National Bank who serves on numerous community boards.
Nelson officially retires from CNB on Dec. 31, but will remain at the bank through two audits and a loan review in the third week of January. He and his wife, Cindy, purchased a house in Springfield and will be moving from Monett in mid-December, commuting in the meantime.
A reception for Nelson will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Dec. 20 at the bank in Monett.
Nelson has served on the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Commission since it started in 1996, and is the only chairman that quasi-governmental entity has had. He has recommendations for a successor to make to the Monett City Council, which appoints commission members.
Nelson has also served since 1997 as chairman of the Monett Industrial Development Authority, where again he will present names of successors for consideration. He is also a longtime member of the Monett Community Foundation board of directors, and is stepping down from that post, and from head of the congregation at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Monett.
“I came here in December 1995, and started working on economic development the next year,” Nelson said.
Nelson started in banking in 1970, working in the inauspicious role of printing checks in a bank basement. He came to Monett as a Mercantile Bank president. Nelson and Darrin Newbold left their bank positions in 2001, preparing applications for the formation of Community National Bank, which opened in September 2002.
Nelson noted that on Dec. 31, the city’s first TIF district will formally dissolve, having run its course of 23 years. The Monett City Council retired the debt for the first district, but it still remains a bookkeeping entity for political subdivisions or developers positioned to channel sales tax revenue toward those debts. Some developers of businesses have been able to channel additional sales tax revenues back to themselves to pay for improvements, such as adding stormwater retention basins.
The second TIF district around the Lowe’s home improvement store complex continues to 2029. Earlier this month, Nelson and bond attorney Carl Yates presented the city council a new project for developing an intersection on the north side of Highway 60 at Lowe’s Lane. The project had been initially proposed when the TIF 2 was formed in 2005 to help fund infrastructure development around the proposed Lowe’s store. At the time, the landowners did not want to take part in the project, and have since sold their property. With the closing of new bonds and refunding of existing TIF 2 bonds in the first week of December, Nelson was pleased to complete that piece of the infrastructure upgrade, especially since projections now show sales tax revenue from the TIF district will cover the full debt.
Nelson’s career as a banker has seen many changes since he began.
“I worked at three other banks before Cindy and I moved here,” Nelson said. “Banking in Monett has always been a community bank model. Monett banking has typically been about listening to customer needs, like family. This is a close knit type of community and very welcoming. Monett has really good community leaders who have a vision that provides continued incentive for younger people to stick around or come back to help the city to grow.”
One of the bigger changes Nelson saw in banking has been the introduction of electronic banking.
“We’ve probably got more electronic versions of banking than we’ve ever had,” Nelson said. “We thought it was younger age groups who would want electronic banking. That hasn’t proved to be the case. I don’t think there will be a loss of brick and mortar banks, but there will be less locations for some of the regional banks.”
The contact with people will be a big part of what Nelson will miss as he leaves his job.
“In banking, I learned something every day about people, and that’s something I enjoyed,” he said.
Helping to guide the city’s TIF program took a great deal of Nelson’s time over the years, including the litigation that stretched from 2009 to 2012, where the city ultimately prevailed. Nelson noted he spent a lot of time keeping the public versed in the mechanics of how TIFs work.
“The concept of a TIF is not something people hear about over lunch,” Nelson said. “I was concerned that people understand. A TIF is a great tool to use properly for any community, not just for dealing with economic blight, but also for future discussion of economic development.”
The litigation, pushed by attorney Ivan Schrader in an attempt to break Monett’s TIF, failed when the courts rejected arguments that the Monett TIFs had been improperly formed.
“Unfortunately, a lot of money was really wasted on attorney fees,” Nelson said.
Legal fees from the litigation were estimated to have cost the city $1 million, and the same combined total for the Lawrence and Barry County Commissions and the Barry County Emergency Services Board.
The Monett Industrial Development Authority, which has the power to issue bonds, has also relied on Nelson’s experience and expertise. He noted that the role of the MIDA, which was last applied to issuing bonds for the Monett Area YMCA’s construction, is quite different from the Monett Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC), which historically helps increase employment through growing manufacturing jobs.
“The MIDA has helped with housing, as well as for EFCO and WinTech bond needs,” Nelson said. “If a business is going to have a project here, the MIDA can authorize the bonds. Now the MIDA is working on doing what is can do to help with the Cox Monett Hospital building, to see if there are prospects to keep the old building from going dark.”
Nelson described the current Cox Monett building well maintained and “extremely well built,” representing a large amount of square footage when including the doctors’ clinic offices north and south of the main structure.
“The issue we run into is these things take time,” Nelson said. “Sometimes if we listen, we can see what we can do to help.”
Duties with these government bodies, as well as the Community Foundation and church work, all unpaid positions, represent a major investment of personal time. Nelson noted that becoming involved with the community on that level represents not only an individual choice, but a family decision, because it represents time away from one’s family. He downplayed his role, observing many volunteers and families have made the same choice.
“If there’s one thing Cindy and I have always tried to do, it’s to see if we can give back for what we receive,” Nelson said. “Monett has lots of wonderful people here looking for needs to address, ways to improve the quality of life, and ways that things can flourish. I’ve always enjoyed serving. That’s just who we are.
“I’m very pleased that we have willing leaders who wanted to serve on the TIF board, the MIDA and all the other committees I’ve served on. The one thing that’s always impressed us with living in Monett is people giving of themselves. That’s always been a blessing. There’s a lot of people who really wish they could do more for the community. Sometimes a job or a location doesn’t provide for that.”
Nelson said for the next phase of his and his wife’s life will be some of the normal retirement activities.
“We’re looking forward to spoiling grandkids and traveling,” he said. “As I told the Monett City Council, Cindy and I will always be watching and wishing the best for Monett.”
Looking back on his career, Nelson recalled a phase someone once said to him about customer service.
“It’s not what you did or said, it’s how you made them feel,” Nelson said. “That’s what they remember. I hope I can do that the rest of my life.”