News and Events
Repurposing the House that Sutton Built
The J. M. Sutton residence, originally located at the corner of Isabella Street and Hwy 82 (the site of present-day CVS Pharmacy), has long been part of Sylvester’s history. The rough-cut lumber removed from this house was repurposed to build the 1960’s Sutton house facing Main Street. According to his grandson, John Sutton, many of the components for the house were repurposed from other structures in the region.
“The timbers moved from my grandfather’s two-story antebellum home were well over 100 years old,” according to John. “The surrounding brick fence, a gift from Mrs. Ola Aultman, came from a variety of structures between Sylvester and Warwick.”
Big Doc, as most people called him, used his cattle trucks to haul the bricks to the new home site. Continuing, John said with a smile, “Because he hauled the bricks right after delivering the cattle to auction, the brick came ‘pre-plastered’ with manure, which the brick masons fussed about.” John noted Big Doc did pay the brick masons extra for having to clean the brick of the pre-plastering.
John has fond memories of the house—Sunday dinners, his grandfather’s pet goat, and running through a drainage tunnel with his cousins when Main Street was turned into a four-lane road.
Although it comes with mixed emotions, John and the rest of the Sutton family were happy South Georgia Banking Company worked with them to salvage pieces of the house that had significant historical and sentimental value, including the chandeliers, wall sconces, doors, knotty pine floors, and a hand-carved marble mantle from Italy.
“While preserving the house was not possible, South Georgia Banking Company has worked diligently to preserve the memory of Big Doc and the historical significance of his house,” said Chief Administrative Officer, Melinda Moore. Moore’s curiosity was satisfied in learning how the structure had been continually repurposed stating that, “As we considered the possibility of renovation, our architects pointed out several elements, including the massive beams, that made the building unique, and significantly challenging.”
With South Georgia Banking Company now constructing a state-of-the-art Banking Center where the Sutton house once sat, Kevin Kicklighter, SGBC City President, Sylvester acknowledges a distinct appreciation of how much this house means to the community. Kicklighter says, “this is why we have worked with the family on salvaging and repurposing, yet again, the memorable items from this notable home. While honoring the history of Sylvester, we look to the future growth and prosperity of all citizens in Worth County.”
Employee Spotlight: Penny Hardy
Meet Penny Hardy! Penny Hardy is a Commercial Loan Specialist who has spent 24 years in banking, with 3 and a half of those years being at South Georgia Banking Company. With an Accounting degree as her foundation, Penny has found her expertise lies in commercial real estate and agriculture loans.
Penny's defining characteristic is that she always goes the extra mile. This has made her a valued employee, as she is always willing to help her colleagues and customers. Chris Cutts, City President of the Tift County Market, sums it up perfectly. "Penny is one of those valued employees that sort of flies under the radar of recognition, doesn’t seek praise, but is crucial to day-to-day operations because of her willingness to go way above and beyond that which is in her 'job description'."
Outside of work, Penny enjoys being outdoors, going to the beach, playing cards and cornhole, while spending time with family and friends.
Penny’s commitment to meeting customer needs and her eagerness to get the job done make her an invaluable member of the South Georgia Banking Company team. Stop by our 2nd Street branch and say hello to Penny and the entire SGBC team!
Grounded in Ag Loans
James M. Sutton, or “Big Doc” as he was known to many, contributed greatly to the agricultural success of Sylvester. Big Doc was the state vet, a local landowner, and a businessman, running the stockyard for many years.
During the depression of the 1930’s, the Farmer’s Bank, located at the corner of Isabella and Front Street, failed and was sold by the state on the courthouse steps. A majority of the bank assets were farm loans; anyone who bought the assets, owned the loan and the farm. Dr. Sutton was keenly aware of the impact the bank closure would have on agriculture in the county. Intending to buy just a few of the offerings, he ended up buying almost all the bank’s assets.
Finding himself with a large quantity of defaulted farm loans for land that was worth about $0.25 an acre, Big Doc sent all the debtors a letter requesting a meeting with each of them. The farmers feared Sutton was going to force them off their land, some of which had been in the family for generations.
According to Big Doc’s grandson, John Sutton, “The farmers were convinced he was going to kick them off the farm, but my grandfather was an extremely wise and savvy businessman. He told them, ‘Boys, I can’t eat dirt. I’m going to stop your loan interest right here and will not foreclose on your past due loans. When you get back on your feet, I want you to come pay me what you owe. You do that and I’ll give you a clear title to your land.’ ”
Big Doc knew this approach would benefit the county, the farmers, and his stockyard. In fact, his stockyard was one of seven statewide that stayed open during the depression. When the farmers got back on their feet, they paid Sutton what was owed, per their agreement, and took possession of their land.
“Had he not acted when and how he did, the face of agriculture in Worth County would look very different today,” said John.
It’s interesting to parallel the history of the original property owner, Big Doc Sutton, and the current landowner, South Georgia Banking Company. Both grounded in agricultural loans and committed to the community. With the construction of SGBC’s newest location underway, Kevin Kicklighter, SGBC City President, Sylvester said, “much like Big Doc, South Georgia Banking Company takes tremendous pride in honoring the history of Sylvester, while looking to the future growth and prosperity of all the citizens in Worth County.”
SGBC Breaks Ground on New Sylvester Location
South Georgia Banking Company broke ground on a new location July 19 in Sylvester; the new branch will be located at 603 N Main Street. The bank opened a loan production office in Sylvester in March of 2019 and nearly a year later, on February 14, 2020, the bank established a full-service branch at a temporary location. The new building is projected to be open in early 2024.
“While SGBC has been operating in Sylvester for several years now at a temporary location, we’ve been very busy and have been looking forward to larger, permanent facility here in the community for a while,” said Kevin Kicklighter, Sylvester City President. “The investment in this larger facility shows our dedication and commitment to this wonderful community.”
South Georgia Banking Company has long ties to Worth County. The late Pait Willis, one of the bank’s founders and former CEO and chairman, always managed to find time for those things close to his heart, and those things included family. He enjoyed family reunions in Worth County with his Sumner cousins —a long held tradition for one of the county’s pioneer families. In fact, Pait contributed to the updates on the original 1932 Sumner genealogy book by William S. Sumner—a gift for future generations.
The new location in Sylvester will be a custom designed 5,126 square-foot full-service banking location. It will have an ITM (Intelligent Teller Machine) and safe deposit boxes. One benefit of the ITM, over a traditional ATM, is consumers and businesses can make cash and check deposits using the ITM as well as to make withdrawals. SGBC also offers a special Sylvester Choice Checking Account specifically for Worth County residents.
Kevin Kicklighter, Sylvester City President since September of 2018, is a Turner County native with a background in consumer, commercial, and agricultural loans. He started off his banking career in Cordele before moving to a bank in Tifton for five years. For the last twelve years, he has specialized in agricultural lending in Worth County and surrounding communities.
“It’s the people, not the building, that makes the difference at SGBC,” said Kicklighter. “We are excited about this new location, but we know our fabulous employees and outstanding customer service are truly what makes the difference.”
South Georgia Banking Company has locations in Omega, Tifton, Moultrie, Ashburn, Cordele, Vienna, and Sylvester. Learn more at SGBConline.com.
SGBC Announces Executive Management Promotions
At the monthly board meeting, held June 26, 2023, South Georgia Banking Company announced the promotion of three individuals to the Executive Management team.
Continuing her position of Executive Vice President, Melinda Moore, has been elected to serve as Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) of the Bank. A native of Tift County, Moore began working at South Georgia Banking Company as a freshman at ABAC and continued her education at the University of Georgia as well as the Georgia Bankers Association Banking School. She started out as a part-time employee in bookkeeping and has risen to the top of management, assisting with the overall company vision and long-term strategy. Moore will be responsible for ensuring policies and programs are in line with overall bank objectives and ensuring quality work, smooth delivery, and adherence to the strategic direction of the bank.
Victor Pires has been named Executive Vice President and Chief Retail Banking Officer (CRBO). With more than 20 years of banking experience, Pires offers unrivaled experience in customer service and the development of new banking products. Born in Brazil and raised in Massachusetts, Pires graduated Washington State University with a bachelor’s degree and received his master’s degree from American Public University. Pires will oversee the full retail banking and consumer lending areas for South Georgia Banking Company, ensuring policies and programs are in line with overall bank objectives, ensuring quality work, smooth delivery, and adherence to the strategic direction of the bank. Continually striving to demonstrate servant leadership with SGBC team members, customers, and our community, promoting Pires to this position is a natural fit.
Sebrina Sweeney, Executive Vice President, has been named South Georgia Banking Company’s Chief Risk Officer (CRO). Sweeney has been with the organization for close to a year and quickly proven the benefit of her extensive experience in the compliance field. She began her career with the OCC as an examiner and later worked at Premier Bank in Atlanta and Main Street Bank in Covington before starting her own consulting business. Originally from West Virginia, Sweeney graduated from Marshall University with a degree in finance and has been working with financial institutions for more than 25 years. In her role as CRO, Sweeney will oversee, integrate, develop, and implement the organization’s Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) Policies and Procedures. ERM practices cover both traditional and non-traditional areas of risk across all lines of business and support functions. The Chief Risk Officer serves as the Information Security Officer (ISO), which is responsible and accountable for implementing and monitoring the information security program.
In their new positions, Moore, Pires, and Sweeney will join Erika Culpepper, Chief Credit Officer; and Chris McCard, Chief Lending Officer, to complete the Executive Management team for South Georgia Banking Company. This team operates in strategic partnership with the bank CEO, Glenn Willis; and bank President, Sam McCard. Together, they collaborate on opportunities in the development and execution of processes for the continued success of the organization.
South Georgia Banking Company serves consumers and businesses with full-service banking, mortgage services, commercial, and ag-lending. SGBC has eight full-service locations in Tift, Turner, Crisp, Colquitt, Dooly and Worth Counties. Its Administration Office is located in Tifton and the company’s employees’ number more than 115 individuals throughout the region. For more information about South Georgia Banking Company, please go to SGBConline.com
Employee Spotlight: Ginger Woodward
Meet Ginger Woodward! Ginger's career with South Georgia Banking Company began as a teller, where she developed a solid foundation in understanding banking operations. Her passion for helping customers and her eagerness to enhance her skills soon led her to her current position as a Universal Banker.
Throughout her career, Ginger has had several defining moments that have shaped her. “One feeling that never gets old is the satisfaction I feel when a customer comes to me with a problem, whether in person or over the phone, and I’m able to help them. Seeing the smile on their face as they leave or hearing it through the phone lets me know I’ve met the customer’s needs and made a positive impact on their day,” Ginger says.
Ginger's professional goal as a Universal Banker is clear: to continue providing the best customer service possible while representing South Georgia Banking Company in all aspects. She also places a priority on staying up to date with the latest advancements and learning opportunities to ensure she can provide the best possible service to each customer she encounters.
Outside of work, Ginger enjoys spending quality time with her family, especially her four wonderful grandchildren. She also finds joy in gardening, decorating, and cooking.
Ginger’s commitment to meeting customer needs and her passion for continuous improvement make her an invaluable member of the South Georgia Banking Company team. Stop by our Vienna branch and say hello to Ginger and the entire SGBC team!
David Keith Celebrates 50 Years in Banking
June 15, 2023 marks fifty years of banking, exceptional customer service, and dedication to South Georgia Banking Company for David Keith. As a Senior Vice President, David has been with us since 1973 and has worked at our original location in Omega, Georgia for his entire tenure.
David was a high school teacher and baseball coach for Tift County High School when our long-time bank president and one of our founders, Pait Willis, offered him a job at the bank. Since then, David has held many roles, starting as a teller and later becoming part of our leadership team. His expertise is deep but management and agri-lending are two key areas of focus along with always being happy to assist customers with their banking needs.
So much has changed in 50 years! When David started at the bank, there were no ATMs and online banking didn’t exist - everything was done in person. Not to mention he has seen South Georgia Bank grow from one location in Omega to three locations in Tift County and locations in Ashburn, Moultrie, Cordele, Vienna, and Sylvester.
David is known for his honesty, dependability, and community service. When asked about his career highlights, he mentions being the chairperson of the GBA Rural Development and Lending Committee for three years, along with fifty years of service to one bank.
“David exemplifies the qualities we value at South Georgia Banking Company,” said Sam McCard, SGBC President. “He operates with integrity and places a premium on helping our customers and his colleagues. David understands the value of community service…and rolls up his sleeve and gets to work. We are honored to have team members like David who set the bar high for dedication and commitment.”
Outside of work, David enjoys spending time with his children and grandchildren, watching UGA football and the Atlanta Braves, and gardening.
SGBC Announces 2023 Hester Memorial Scholarship Winners
Two outstanding students, Kylei Cutts of Tifton and Gavin Young of Sumner, have been selected as the 2023 local recipients of the Julian and Jan Hester Memorial Scholarship from South Georgia Banking Company.
Both students submitted impressive applications touting their academic achievements and accolades, community involvement, and an essay submission on the role of community banking. The students will each receive a $500 cash scholarship from SGBC, and their applications have been submitted for further consideration of four Hester Memorial $1,000 scholarships chosen by the Community Banking Association (CBA).
Kylei Cutts, a senior at Tift County High School and dual-enrolled at South Georgia Technical College and daughter of SGBC employee Chris Cutts, plans to attend Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College this fall. Throughout her high school career, she has held many positions including president of DECA, a nationally recognized organization focusing on marketing, entrepreneurship, hospitality and tourism, financial and leadership concepts. She is a BETA club member, active in FFA, a member of the National Honors Society, and she played tennis and volleyball for all four years of high school. Outside of school, Cutts is very active in her community and participates in her church’s youth group, Meals on Wheels, Special Olympics, and Young Life to name a few. Additionally, at the age of 11, Cutts founded “Choose Kindness Everyday,” an initiative helping bring awareness to homeless animals and raise money for her local animal shelter where she has volunteered for 7 years. To date, Cutts has donated over $6,500 toward this cause.
Gavin Young, a Worth County High School senior , honor graduate, and dual-enrolled student at South Regional Technical College, plans to attend the University of Georgia in the fall to pursue degrees in graphic design and ag business. Young is very active in STEM club where he has served as project leader and creates hands-on learning kits for younger children to explore science and robotics. He served as captain of the Robotics Team where he and his team designed and built a robot for competition and won multiple awards. Young also participated in SkillsUSA and is an award-winning welder. He will graduate with three Career Technical and Ag Education (CTAE) pathways completed: Audio, Video, Technology & Film and two welding pathways. He rounded out his high school experience being in the math league, FFA, and FBLA. Outside of school, Young was part of the Colony Leadership Academy and learned the value of hard work by working on his father’s farm.
The Julian & Jan Hester Memorial Scholarship is named after long-time CBA Chief Executive Officer, the late Julian Hester and his late daughter, Jan Hester.
Jan was a senior at the University of Georgia when she died in an automobile accident in April of 1990. In addition to supporting community banking, this scholarship is an opportunity to pass on the positive qualities both Julian and Jan Hester exemplified to further the development of tomorrow’s generations.
Applications are open each spring; if you know a deserving senior in 2024, please watch for information from South Georgia Banking Company next year.