Stafford Takes the Helm at Benchmark Community Bank

June 15, 2017 - Jay A. Stafford has been named President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Benchmark Community Bank, succeeding longtime CEO Michael O. Walker. The transition took place during the Board of Directors meeting which followed the Benchmark Bankshares, Inc. Annual Shareholders meeting at the company’s Kenbridge headquarters on May 18, 2017. Benchmark Bankshares, Inc. is the holding company for Benchmark Community Bank.

Stafford’s election as President/CEO was the culmination of a succession plan initiated by the Board of Directors in 2013 as Walker’s eventual retirement was being anticipated. In the fall of 2014, Stafford was named Executive Vice President followed by his election as President by the Board of Directors in May 2016 with Walker remaining as CEO. In December, Walker announced his impending retirement to be effective June 30, 2017.

Board Chair Ernest R. (Randy) Lail said of Stafford’s election, "The Board of Directors is pleased that Jay has accepted the role of President and CEO of Benchmark Community Bank. We believe his experience in Southern Virginia and Benchmark will serve our shareholders, communities, and employees well. We are excited about the future opportunities and the management team that has been assembled."

"I am honored to have this opportunity to guide Benchmark in the coming years," Stafford said. "This is an institution that sincerely cares about the people and communities we serve. We have wonderful employees who make up the Benchmark Team that truly enjoys contributing to their hometowns individually and through the bank’s involvement. That is a part of the Benchmark culture that has been demonstrated to us by my predecessor Mike Walker."

Lail echoed Stafford’s praise of retiring CEO Walker. "We certainly express our thanks to Mike Walker for his 43 years of dedicated service and the last 12 as President and CEO."

In tribute to Walker and his influence on the bank, Stafford said, "Mike has been an incredible mentor and truly set the tone for how Benchmark operates today. From the décor of the branches to the Benchmark culture of community investment and customer service, Mike’s signature is highly evident. I could not have had a better example to emulate. I am honored and humbled to be entrusted with his legacy."

As Stafford takes the helm, he remarked that some change is inevitable as the bank responds to innovations and increased complexities in the banking industry, as well as customer needs. He noted that a component of the succession plan specifically related to the bank’s response blueprint was realized in April with the formation of a senior management team. This team will provide strategic support for the existing executive management team. He noted that the enhanced management team will work together to provide specific organizational function support enabling the bank to continue its historically strong performance in the years to come. "We have always had trusted employees serving in officer positions to support the bank," Stafford explained. "With the bank’s growth and geographical expansion, it was time to broaden the leadership team to help us prepare for the future."

A native of Fredericksburg, Stafford joined Benchmark in 1988 as a business development officer where he served for one year before being named branch manager for the Victoria location. In 1998, he began overseeing multiple branches as a regional manager and was advanced in 2003 to Vice President/Branch Administrator with oversight of all the branches. His promotion to Senior Vice President came in 2005, a position in which he served until elevation to Chief Banking Officer in 2014 and Executive Vice President in 2015.

Benchmark Community Bank, founded in 1971, is headquartered in Kenbridge, VA. Along with its twelve banking offices located throughout central Southside Virginia, Benchmark operates loan production offices in Wake Forest and Henderson, NC. Since 2007, Benchmark has been named one of the Top 200 Community Banks in the nation by American Banker magazine.

Contact: Helen Person, VP/Marketing
434-676-2666 ext. 1103



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