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Banker Takes A Bow

by Paul Bass | Dec 3, 2013 3:45 pm

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Posted to: Business/ Economic Development

Paul Bass Photo Judging from his send-off Monday night, banker Bill Placke is leaving town with his community balance sheet in the black.

Some 75 civic movers and shakers crowded into downtown Gateway Community College’s CafĂ© Vincenzo for Placke’s retirement party. Placke officially steps down Jan. 1 as president and CEO of START Community Bank. Placke spent six years working, first on behalf of the not-for-profit First City Fund Corporation, to form the bank, and then to get it off the ground. His departure is one of several at the top ranks of important city institutions; others include Yale, the Board of Education and City Hall.

Speakers credited Placke for getting the bank off the ground, successfully obtaining one of only three charters granted by regulators nationwide during recession-racked 2009. The bank has since grown to $55 million in assets, including $43 million in loans (of which $20 million are commercial loans), according to Placke. It has also trained over 2,500 young people in “financial literacy” through programs like “loot camps”; many of those young people have opened bank accounts as a result. In his remarks to the crowd, Placke said the mission of serving the disadvantaged “has kept my gas tank filled from Day One.” Amid Placke’s shining moments on the public stage in town, one went unmentioned: his convincing role as a “Dapper Man” at a bank in VaudeVillain, the Broken Umbrella Theater’s play at Lyric Hall about a real-life 1913 Westville murder.

Maureen Frank succeeds Placke as president and CEO. She had previously worked under Placke at the old Centerbank in Waterbury. She watched from the side of the room during the speeches at Placke’s party Monday evening; she didn’t give a speech herself.

Mayor John DeStefano (pictured with Fair Haven activist Norma Franceschi and Paul Brock, Mayor-Elect Toni Harp’s driver) did give a speech. He recalled helping lead the fight to get money to start the community development bank when the old New Haven Savings Bank went public (turning into NewAlliance, then First Niagara). DeStefano will work as Frank’s “executive vice-president” at START Bank upon his own retirement as mayor on Jan. 1. “We stand on [Placke’s] shoulders,” DeStefano remarked to the crowd. “The best for the bank is yet to come.”

Toni Harp presented Placke with a congratulatory proclamation from the state government sponsored by New Haven’s state legislators. Quoting Sly and the Family Stone, Harp told Placke that in addition to his talent and professional accomplishments, “You are everyday people.” “He got START started,” Harp added.

To offer added proof that this was an important civic event, the ubiquitous Tom Ficklin was on hand taking photos.

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