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The year was 1971.
And Bill Enloe thought for sure he was going to get drafted.
With the Vietnam War in full swing, he had just graduated from Eastern New Mexico University and immediately after getting his degree, he was handed a 1-A draft designation.
He walked into the Los Alamos National Bank to close his accounts, resigned to his fate.
“I actually knew the vice president of the bank and I was closing out my accounts,” said Enloe, who was the captain of the 1966 Los Alamos High School football team that won the state championship.
“I mentioned what was going on and she said, ‘Why don’t you work here until you are actually drafted?’ I don’t know if it was fate or bad luck. They put a moratorium on the draft a few months later.”
And the rest, they say is history.
In August 1971, the bank was eight-years-old with one branch office, $15 million in assets and 12 employees. Today, LANB has six branch offices, $1.6 billion in assets and 350 employees, and it has also become the largest community bank in New Mexico.
On Feb. 1, Enloe, 64, the chief executive officer of LANB, announced his retirement after 42 years at the bank.
Enloe worked his way up the LANB ladder and became president in 1979.
“I worked there for seven years until I became president and I looked at how the employees were treated,” Enloe said. “They were abused in my opinion. They were not paid well, they were not respected. I vowed when I became president of the bank I would treat employees with respect and pay them well. That was kind of my epiphany. I saw a change in the employees. They were treated well and they had smiles on their faces.”
Enloe also made a difference in the community. He took great pride in helping local businesses get started or helping residents buy their homes.
If there was a certain cause in the community, Enloe made sure LANB contributed.
“The bank is only as successful as the community,” Enloe said.
And he did his best to help the community overcome adversity.
During the Cerro Grande Fire, LANB made a number of loans at zero percent interest to help businesses and citizens affected by the fire to get back on their feet. Also, during the fire, the bank ran the schools and county payroll so everybody could get paid.
“It was the right thing to do,” Enloe said. “And we had no problem taking that extra step.”
It hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing either for LANB, especially in the last couple of years when federal regulators clamped down on the bank in regard to some of the loans it made.
Enloe said that did not play a role in his decision to retire but, “there was a psychological effect. I call it regulatory fatigue.”
It’s only been a week, but Enloe is trying to adapt to retired life. He said he is going to continue to take part in the many boards and organizations that he is a part of. He had to resign a couple of them because he is no longer a banker.
Enloe said he is still trying to figure out what else he is going to do since he now has a little more free time on his hands.
Members of the community paid tribute to Enloe and his legacy at the bank and the community.
“Bill Enloe is well known and will long be remembered for his outstanding stewardship of Los Alamos National Bank as evidenced by the bank winning the Malcolm Baldridge Quality Award,” said former County Councilor Mike Wismer.
“Another component of the work Bill Enloe has done over the last 28 years is to build a work environment for employees that challenges them to excel, supports their work and crafts future leaders.
“Bill’s leadership is setting the touch and tone for his employees and staff also culminated with one of his employees, who is a civilian-soldier in the New Mexico National Guard, nominating Bill for the prestigious Department of Defense Patriot Award. In my view, Bill Enloe leaves behind a legacy of strong leadership in his community and within the work centers of LANB.”
Kevin Holsapple, executive director of the Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation/Chamber of Commerce said, “There is no one I can think of who has had a more profound and positive impact on business and commerce in our community than Bill Enloe. I congratulate him for all he has accomplished and I wish him a rewarding, active retirement. He leaves behind a great staff and organization who I know will miss him, but I believe will carry on his legacy in continuing to be a key anchoring institution in our community.”
County Clerk and former Council Chair Sharon Stover also weighed in.
“To me LANB was Bill Enloe,” Stover said. “Bill never said no to any of the youth projects I brought to him for his support. He was a great role model working with them. He cares deeply about our community and has always worked to make it extraordinary. When I heard that Bill was leaving LANB, it reminded me of the feeling I had when Senator Domenici retired — there are few icons like Bill and Senator Domenici that leave a lasting legacy. Bill will be sorely missed, and I wish he and Cathy the best in whatever they choose to do. He’s the top in my book.”
Bill Enloe also shared his thoughts on economic development issues impacting Los Alamos. Look for that story in the Los Alamos Monitor next week.