Local banker retiring; gave personal attention

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After more than 40 years in the banking business, Michael Sumner, the senior vice president of New Mexico Bank and Trust in Los Lunas, is retiring.

Clients and friends are invited to a retirement reception party from 1 to 5 p.m., Friday, Sept. 13, at 1810 Main Street NW in Los Lunas.

Deborah Fox-News-Bulletin photo: Local banker Michael Sumner, senior vice president of New Mexico Bank and Trust, is retiring after more than 40 years. A retirement reception will be Friday, Sept. 13.

Sumner’s customers will tell you this is a huge loss because Sumner is an old-style banker who gives personal attention to his clientele.

“If the banking business would allow him to do business transactions on a handshake, he would still be that way,” said Linda Bell, teller supervisor.

“He actually goes out to businesses every afternoon to check on his customers, even if it’s just to stop and say ‘hi’ and make sure everything is going OK, and see what he can help them with,” Bell said. “Not many people do that anymore.”

The 61-year-old has been the banker of choice for many Valencia County residents who have followed him from bank to bank. His career spans from the First National Bank of Belen branch in Mountainair, to offices in Socorro, Bosque Farms and Belen, to other Valencia County banks, such as the Bank of New Mexico, First Community Bank, which is now U.S. Bank, and New Mexico Bank and Trust.

“Mike’s a hometown boy and hasn’t forgot where he’s from,” said Chuck Rumschlag, owner of Color Works, an auto restoration shop in Los Lunas. “He’s one of those people who takes heart in his community … (he) looks out for you.”

He and Sumner share a love of classic cars. Rumschlag restores them and Sumner shows them, as well as does a little tinkering himself. He has a few vintage autos, but his favorite is his 1981 DeLorean with gull-wing doors, and he has shown cars at Los Lunas Summerfest since it began more than 20 years ago.

Submitted photo: For more than 40 years, every bank that Mike Sumner worked for participated in the Valencia County Fair livestock auction to support the county’s youth.

Every time the economy took a dip, Sumner coached business owners through it, Rumschlag said.

“He looked out for me, protected my company,” he said. “He has been a partner with me.”

Born and raised on a ranch near Mountainair, Sumner still ranches on the family ranch in Corona, and on his place in the Texas hill country.

Farm and ranch economic development is close to his heart.

“He always leaned in their favor,” said Charlie Myers, owner of the Cattleman’s Livestock Auction. “From financing, to pasture, to loaning them money, to extending their note, he has been the livestock people’s friend.”

Charlie and Phyllis Myers have followed Sumner for 30 years.

“I don’t think there’s anybody that could’ve or would’ve taken as good a care as Mike has,” Myers said.

“You knew you could depend on him,” said Phyllis. “He was always there for us. He always did what he said he’d do, and he always worked hard for us.”

Sumner said he got into banking as a career because he was interested in finance, and he wanted to make money.

“What I like about banking is being able to finance a project that succeeds,” Sumner said. “Being able to judge at the start of a project whether or not the people borrowing the money have the plan that will succeed, and then seeing the business flourish.”

Sumner has been the banker to many local businesses that, if it wasn’t for his believing in them, they probably would have never made it.

“That’s rewarding,” he said.

As a young college student in his second year at Eastern New Mexico University, Sumner went to visit the president of First National Bank of Belen, the late John C. Johnson.

He took his college course catalog with him, told Johnson he wanted a career in banking, and asked which college courses he should take.

It was the start of his career.

Banking has changed a lot since then. It’s not as simple and it’s not as personal.

“Money’s all green, but when you talk about the service and the attention you get as a customer, and what fees you pay for the services, then that differentiates,” Sumner said. “Most little banks aren’t trying to make all their money off of fees.”

There are a lot of regulations and financing requirements that make it harder to be a banker now, he said.

“Mike knows so much about so many different things,” said Rhonda Davis, vice president at New Mexico Bank and Trust. “He reads a lot, knows a lot and would explain things. He always wants to see people be the best they can.”

“He’s a joy to work with,” said Bell. “He’s never ever in a bad mood, never has anything bad to say about anybody.”

Bell has worked with Sumner her entire career. They met at the Valencia County Fair when Bell’s children were showing livestock in the 4-H show.

“He’s very involved in the community and the fairs here,” she said. “He insists that (we) go to each fair every year to buy animals for the bank in support of the kids, and he’s done that ever since my daughter, Kori Bell, was probably 8 years old. She’s 29 now.”

Sumner helped her husband, Fred “Bubba” Bell, with his business as well, and their daughters played soccer together.

“He’s extremely family-oriented, and never missed a game his daughter played,” Bell said.

In retirement, Sumner wants to spend more time at the family ranch in Texas, where he can fish, hunt, and spend time with daughter, Michelle, who is finishing her master’s degree at Texas A&M.


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.