The Times West Virginian

Opinion

April 30, 2014

Bill McLaughlin one-of-a-kind leader for Marion County

The Bill McLaughlin success story actually began after the Weston native had graduated with a B.S. degree in business administration from West Virginia University. McLaughlin would say that he had no idea what he wanted to do with his life.

A neighbor mentioned to him that he was taking a banking test that weekend and suggested that McLaughlin may want to take the test as well. He decided to do it, the bank liked him and the rest of the story is history.

He began his career in banking as an examiner for the FDIC, and in 1967 he became an auditor for Community Bank and Trust in Fairmont, which later became CB&T. He advanced from there to chairman, president and then CEO.

But more important than the titles he held at his bank in Fairmont was the leadership role he assumed in the community. He was a natural in this role and he would get people together at the Chamber of Commerce and various other boards, and say, “Hey, guys. Let’s get together and get this project done.” He made things happen in Marion County. Unfortunately for Fairmont, he and his wife moved from Fairmont following his retirement.

The tag “mover and shaker” is applied to many people — many who are deserving and some who are not. Bill McLaughlin, who died last week in Florida, was a mover and a shaker. He never got into battles. He simply led and did what was good for the town. He gave good advice and moved this town forward. He was one of a kind.

McLaughlin also had a lot of common sense. He wanted Marion Countians to get off their duffs, quit fussing and get Fairmont moving again. He always carried a vision for things bigger and better.  

 He took community projects seriously. He changed banking in West Virginia by creating a Bank Holding Company. He was the first president of the Progressive Bankers Association for banks wishing to work for modernizing banking laws. McLaughlin’s bank purchased other banks and bought savings and loans when they were in difficulty. McLaughlin knew how to lead and his employees knew how to follow. He had great faith in his employees.

He took on major roles in many areas. In addition to the Chamber of Commerce and the Fairmont Industrial Credit Union, he was a member of the Fairmont State Board of Advisers, the WVU Board of Regents, the Finance Committee for Ruby Memorial Hospital, and the Davis & Elkins Board of Trustees. He was honored by being named to the West Virginia Business Hall of Fame and was the 1966 Alumnus of the Year at WVU.

He worked behind the scenes on many projects. One of his bank employees, Nancy Bickerstaff, became chairman of Operation Image and he later said that this was one of the most significant projects that ever happened in Marion County. Through Bickerstaff’s leadership, this project helped clean up Marion County as it had not been cleaned up in many, many years.

 Bill McLaughlin encouraged his employees to become involved in the community and to help improve the quality of life in Marion County. It was only natural that he would expect that. Bill McLaughlin served as a major role model in that area over the many years he served as one of Marion County’s most prominent citizens.

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