Cason Shrode

Cason Shrode

Austin Bank honors employees’ service

Jacksonville-based Austin Bank recently honored employees for their work and years of service with the company. They were recognized at the bank’s 2019 Service Award Luncheon at Willow Brook Country Club in Tyler.

“We are proud of all these employees because they work as a team serving our friends, neighbors and businesses located here in East Texas,” Austin Bank Vice Chairman Jeff Austin III said in a statement. “They are the key to our bank’s success.”

The annual luncheon honored 53 employees with a combined total of 730 years of experience. Longview recipients were:

Thirty-five Year Service Award

■ Billy Mullins, senior executive vice president/chief risk officer, began his career with Texas National Bank before the name change to Austin Bank. He has served as a loan officer, cashier, in loan review and in the risk management department. He holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of North Texas and completed the Graduate School of Banking at Louisiana State University.

Mullins is a volunteer, director and officer of Newgate Mission and has worked with numerous other nonprofit groups in Gregg County.

Thirty-Year Service Award

■ Debbie Conner is an administrative officer and regional loan assistant in the Longview Oak Forest office. She is a graduate of Longview High School and Kilgore College.

A long-time resident of Longview, Conner belongs to the United States Tennis Association and the Longview Tennis Association.

Twenty-five Year Service Award

■ Tammy Howell began her career with the Bank in Big Sandy in 1994. She has worked as a teller, proof operator and in bookkeeping before assuming her current role in the technology department as a computer operator. She works out of the the Longview Greggton office.

She is a graduate of Gladewater High School and attended Kilgore College. Howell is a volunteer with the Silver Paws certified animal assisted therapy program in Longview.

Twenty-Year Service Awards

■ Natalie Lynch, executive vice president/regional president, offices in the commercial lending center at Longview Oak Forest. Her tenure with the bank has included positions as a credit analyst, location president at the Longview Loop office and Longview market president.

A graduate of Pine Tree High School and University of Texas at Tyler, Lynch has also completed the Southwestern Graduate School of Banking at Southern Methodist University, the American Bankers Association Commercial Lending School, Leadership Longview and the Texas Bankers Association Management Development Program.

Lynch is vice chair of the Longview Economic Development Corp.; board member for the Longview Chamber of Commerce; chairwoman of Junior Achievement of East Texas; secretary for the East Texas Regional Development Co.; and past president and sustaining member of the Junior League of Longview.

■ John Orr, senior vice president and chief information officer, has more than 24 years of banking experience with the past 20 at Austin Bank. He is a graduate of Denham Springs High School in Louisiana, as well as Louisiana Tech University.

In addition, Orr has completed Texas Bankers Association’s Accounting for Bankers and Management Development Program; the BAI Graduate School of Banking for Bank Operations, Payments and Technology; the Austin Bank Leadership Training Program and STAR Program; IBAT/FRB Banking on Leaders of Tomorrow; and Southwestern Graduate School of Banking Bank Operations Institute.

■ Lisa Sampson, senior vice president/loan operations manager, began her banking career during high school and has remained in the industry for more than 40 years. A 20-year employee, she joined Austin Bank as a loan operations supervisor.

Sampson is a graduate of Kilgore High School and has completed classes through Kilgore College and numerous other continuing education providers.

Fifteen-Year Service Award

■ Mike Simpson, vice president/treasury management officer, lives in Liberty City. He graduated high school in Quito, Ecuador, and received a bachelor’s degree from LeTourneau University.

In addition, he has completed training to earn his Accredited ACH Professional designation, the Electronic Banking Officer Certification and the Dale Carnegie leadership program.

Simpson is a volunteer for Junior Achievement, volunteer teaching financial education at the B.M. Moore Correctional Center and juror for the Reel East Texas Film Festival in Kilgore.

Ten-Year Service Awards

■ Lynnette Martin, assistant vice president/retail office manager, is a graduate of Longview High School and attended Kilgore College. With more than 40 years in banking, Martin has been recognized by her peers as a Star of the Month, and volunteers with the Gregg County ARC.

■ Ramon Merkley, loan assistant in the Longview Pine Tree office, began his career as a teller with Austin Bank in Kilgore. He is a graduate of Sabine High School and Texas A&M University.

■ Brandi Morton is a relationship manager working in the bank’s Kilgore office. She joined the Austin Bank team in 2009 as a credit analyst before moving to the Kilgore office in 2018.

A graduate of White Oak High School and the University of Texas at Tyler, she is a member of the Kilgore Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors and the Rotary Club of Kilgore.

Five-Year Service Award

■ Maria Lawson, telephone customer service representative, joined the bank in 2014 with three years of previous banking experience. She is a graduate of Union Grove High School, Tyler Junior College and the University of Texas at Tyler.

Cassity Jones wins excellence award

Cassity Jones Lumber and Building Materials has received the ProSales Excellence Award in Education for its in-house training program to help employees move up and grow the company.

The award was presented by ProSales magazine, which provides news, information, and expertise for pro-oriented building supply dealers and distributors in the United States.

It was in recognition of the internal education program, which provides training in the following areas: Operational agility, Strategic and critical thinking, Communication adaptability, and Leadership flexibility.

Judges were impressed with the depth of the program and its one-year time frame, ProSales said. One judge wrote, “They have hit on all four areas where everybody should be focused. While some people label the shelves and make it easy to pick products (which is necessary), Cassity is teaching people ‘Why!’ ”

Said President Cason Shrode:

“Leadership is going to be our differentiator in the future performance of our organization. Everyone in our organization should be a leader. Pullers in the yard, they should be a leader in everything they do. Unless we can continue to develop that talent, we aren’t going to be where we want to be.”

Allstate agents win grant for center

TYLER — East Texas Allstate agency owners recently collected toiletries through supply drives to help domestic violence survivors. Allstate volunteers across 21 Texas cities secured $95,000 in Allstate Foundation Helping Hands Grants for 21 nonprofit organizations, including $10,000 for East Texas Crisis Center.

Allstate agency owners rallied members of their communities to donate toiletries, clothing and personal items to help survivors of domestic violence and financial abuse. Organizations like East Texas Crisis Center often operate with limited resources and collecting supplies helps them serve more survivors.

“It’s heartwarming to see East Texas residents and local businesses come together to rally for survivors and their families,” said Melissa Azzam, Allstate agency owner in Kilgore.

The supply drive was part of a nationwide effort during Domestic Violence Awareness Month to benefit women’s shelters and domestic violence nonprofits.

Participating East Texas Allstate agency owners included:

■ Melissa Azzam, Kilgore

■ Logan Eddington, Longview

■ Richard Longacre, Longview

— Share your news: Send news of new hires, job changes, promotions, awards, training completed and other news to the Sunday Business Digest by 5 p.m. Wednesday. Submissions may be faxed to (903) 757-3742; emailed to; or mailed to: Business Section, Longview News-Journal, P.O. Box 1792, Longview, TX 75606. For information, call (903) 237-7744.