Pub 12 2023 Issue 6

BRIEFLY IN KANSAS BANKING Kansas Banker Receives Top Ag Banking Award The American Bankers Association (ABA) announced the recipients of its annual Bruning and Blanchfield Awards, the association’s premier awards for significant contributions to agricultural banking. ABA honored Leonard Wolfe, President and CEO of United Bank and Trust in Marysville, with the Bruning Award at the ABA Agricultural Bankers Conference, November 5-8 in Oklahoma City. This award recognizes the lifetime achievement of agricultural bankers for their leadership and outstanding dedication to providing credit and financial guidance to farmers, ranchers and businesses in rural America. Named after its first recipient, Nebraska banker Frank Bruning, the Bruning Award is now in its 26th year. “I cannot express how proud and honored I am to have received such a prestigious award,” Wolfe said. “It’s humbling to me that I was even considered for an award like this and to be a recipient, it’s such a great honor.” Wolfe, a native of Kansas who has more than 40 years of experience in banking, began his career as an agricultural lender and insurance agent. He later accepted a position as president of the Home State Bank, where he worked for his mentor Virgil Lair. Wolfe later managed three additional banks under Lair for nearly a decade. One of Wolfe’s key accomplishments during his career was pushing for the creation of a Kansas law that gives community banks the same tax-exempt status on certain earned interest as farm credit institutions. The Kansas bill, similar to the ABA-supported ACRE Act introduced in the House and Senate earlier this year, also includes a tax exemption for rural housing loans in communities with populations of 2,500 or less, allowing farm real estate borrowers and rural homeowners access to lower interest rates. “My biggest motivation is to help our communities and our customers,” said Wolfe. “There are many threats to communities in rural America and it sometimes feels like all the cards are stacked against us, but as a community banker we can help change that so our customers and people within our communities compete with the rest of the world.” While chair of ABA’s Agricultural Credit Task Force, Wolfe, one of the largest agricultural real estate lenders in Kansas, testified on the state of agricultural credit before the House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture. “Leonard has been an incredible champion for promoting the competitiveness of community banks and ag banks,” said Doug Wareham, President and CEO of Kansas Bankers Association. Wolfe has also served as chairman of the Kansas Bankers Association and the Kansas Banking Commission. In addition to his roles representing his fellow agricultural bankers, Wolfe is a demonstrated leader. Hired by Gold Banc after his work with Lair, he helped facilitate a merger between Peoples National Bank of Clay Center and Tri-County Bank. He was then President and Regional Manager of the Peoples National Bank with the responsibility of overseeing 12 branches spread across the state of Kansas. When Gold Banc decided to sell some of its locations in 2003, Wolfe raised money to purchase and capitalize the banks. This led him to becoming President, CEO and Chairman of the Board at United Bank and Trust, a position he still holds nearly 20 years later. Today, Wolfe lives on a farm North of Frankfort, Kansas, with his wife of 45 years. They have two daughters, a son and nine grandchildren. 28