The owner of USA Mortgage in Cleveland combined family values with her family business by working with those she holds dear. In doing so, Casteel has brought a distinctive style to the mortgage industry that speaks to her upbringing and character as a person.
Born in Illinois but raised in Michigan, Casteel was the daughter of a minister, Edwin Wooden, who raised his three children (Kim, Debbie and Gary) to be respectful, successful ladies and gentlemen. As they traveled with the family to Florida, Texas and other places, her father put a premium on spiritual values and doing for others whenever possible. Casteel links her success with her close family ties, including her father’s influence for so many years.
“After he retired from his ministry, he worked for me for 20 years,” Casteel said. “He worked for me until the day before he passed away. He was really instrumental in my business. When he was here we got along well. The whole family still does.”
Casteel came to Cleveland to attend Lee College (now Lee University), and earned her BA in psychology. She was prepared for a promising career in counseling. But that career move would require going back to get her master’s degree, which she admits she was not ready to do at the time.
“I ended up getting a job with a mortgage company in Chattanooga. Actually, I got in the mortgage business because my husband and I were buying our first home in 1983. But my loan officer quit at the time and moved to Atlanta,” she said. “The job came open and the Realtor officer said, ‘I know you’re looking for work. Why don’t you apply for this job?’ I did. And that’s how I got into this business. It ended up being my niche. I loved it! I really enjoy helping people buy homes and save homes. It’s very rewarding. I had no idea that this would be my career path. From day one, I loved it.”
Casteel said she worked for that company for a couple of years then opened her own — USA Mortgage — in 1986, and never looked back. Since then she, her mother, Barbara, sister, Debbie Gann, and late father worked together in helping thousands of people in Tennessee and Georgia to own homes over the years.
“We helped a lot of Hispanics in Dalton, (Ga.),” she said. “That’s really interesting, because there’s a whole different community there with a different set of needs. There’s also a whole different community and different set of needs when we started doing reverse mortgages in 2007. It’s kind of nice to work with everybody. Everyone has different needs — whether you’re younger or older, we all need housing. I really enjoy helping people purchase a home. That’s one of our basic needs.”
Casteel, whose USA Mortgage was voted the 2013 “Best Mortgage Lender” in the Banner’s Reader’s Choice Award, said she is also aware of her own basic needs — the need to spend time with family and to enjoy the arts.
“My greatest source of happiness right now is spending time with my mother,” she said, tears suddenly appearing in her eyes. “We’ve always been best friends, but now I really want to take the time to be with her. I go through the newspaper on Sundays and notice what’s going on — what plays are coming out, what festivals are happening — and we usually go to different things and see what Tennessee and local surroundings have to offer. My sister and brother also go when he’s in town. We take advantage of that time, make memories and enjoy it. Gary lives in Michigan. I love spending time with friends and family. That is special to me.”
Casteel’s son, Jarrod, is a Cleveland native, she said. He too, is a graduate from Lee and is currently at law school at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.
“He got married about a year ago. He and his wife are both scholars. They’re a very accomplished young couple,” Casteel said. As she savors her own accomplishments as a mother, daughter and businesswoman, Casteel has returned to one of her favorite hobbies — pencil drawing.
“I started it back in college and made a little money doing some drawings back then,” she said. “Then I kind of put it away. I felt like it was an undeveloped talent because I never had any lessons. I picked it back up in the past year. I actually did a portrait of a little boy that a friend of mine was adopting from another country. I gave it to him as a gift. That was my first project and he was thrilled about it. So now I’m taking lessons weekly to try and develop that talent. It’s a nice way to relax and enjoy each moment. I also love to shop, like most women. That’s something like a hobby. I like going to different places, to different festivals and shop.”
Now that she has made a successful career as a single businesswoman, having raised an accomplished son, and is finding joy in her personal hobbies, Casteel is taking life one cherished moment at a time as she basks in every occasion to share time with her loved ones.
“Recently, we went to Knoxville, had breakfast with my son and his wife, went shopping, came back and had dinner with them. I have a great family!” she said. “I’m blessed.”