Georgia Gann gets to share some special moments with a lot of people.
She sees the smiles when they get that new car or the house of their dreams.
It is something she has been involved with for 53 years, and her colleagues are celebrating her accomplishments today.
Gann is the senior vice president of lending at Southern Heritage Bank and it’s a position she has grown to love.
“After I graduated high school, there were some people who lived a block or so away and he had a plumbing business,” Gann said. “They wanted me to run the office while he was out.”
That only lasted a few months when she got a call from Pat Love, who was the president of First Farmers Bank in Athens.
Love asked her to come interview which led to her working for that bank “and that’s how it all got started.”
Gann began working with the proof machine for the bank although she said she was “really more of a people person.”
When someone left the loan department, “that’s when it really all got started.”
“I was working in the loan department and, ironically, the head of the department’s wife was my shorthand and accounting teacher in high school,” she said. “So, I was there for a number of years.”
After First Tennessee bought the bank, she got the call to interview at Citizens National Bank.
“That was just three blocks down the street [in Athens] and they hired me,” Gann said.
It was 1971 when Gann’s husband accepted a job in Cleveland and the family made the move from Etowah.
“For a little while, there was a bus that went from here to Athens daily and back in the evening, so I continued to work there,” she said.
Gann made the decision to try to find work that was more conveniently located.
“I parked in the Cleveland National Parking lot [now First American] but I didn’t go in there. I walked across the street to the First Farmers Bank,” she said. “I interviewed with Mr. Fitzgerald and they hired me and I ended up in the loan area.”
She said she continued that until a lending position came open and that started her in the lending business.
“To me, what the job was and still [involves is] trying to help people make their dreams come true within the guidelines I have to work within, if I can,” Gann said. “I like that aspect of it.”
While at Cleveland National, Gann helped start a newsletter for the bank.
“That was kind of neat,” she said.
Gann calls her former boss, Sam McReynolds “awesome,” saying he was the one who really got her started in the lending part of the business.
The bank built a new building on Raider Drive, then Gann’s husband became ill.
“I just left and went home to be with him,” Gann said.
She said Steve Ledbetter with Southern Heritage called and wanted her to work with that organization.
“It worked out I did and I had the freedom to go home when I needed to,” Gann said. “They understood the situation. They are awesome people. Lee Stewart [Southern Heritage president and CEO] is a good Christian man.”
After her husband lost his battle with cancer, Gann said she was often asked when she was going to retire.
“I needed a purpose and a reason to go on,” she said. “And, I love what I do. So, here I am.”
She received her associate degree in business administration from Cleveland State and later returned to the college as an adjunct faculty member teaching banking courses through a program of the now defunct American Bankers Association.
“I did that for a number of years,” she said. “It was awesome. I really enjoyed doing that.”
Gann said she can’t honestly say she ever had a real fascination with numbers.
“I did enjoy my high school accounting class, so I guess there was a hint there,” she said. “I never really dreamed this would be where I’d be, but it’s the people part I like best. Helping people if I can.”
She said it is rewarding when she sees the faces of those getting that new car or new home.
“It’s great seeing their excitement,” Gann said.
She also took great pleasure in helping with one of Cleveland’s newest landmarks.
“I was so excited because I got to be lender for the Museum Center at Five Points’ construction,” Gann said. “That was exciting and I do believe [museum director] Hassan [Najjar] is doing such a great job. So, I’m happy we got him here.”
Gann said the staff at Southern Heritage has become a family to her.
“We all know each other well and everybody rallies around when the need it there,” she said. “It is really is like a family.”
Gann said she would advise high school students who might have and interest in banking “there are a lot of avenues it can open for them.”
“I think if they like working with numbers and being with people it could be a very rewarding career choice,” she said.
She has also works with the “awesome program” of the Cleveland Civitan Club working with the mentally and physically challenged.
Gann has also shared of her time and heart with Habitat for Humanity, United Way and the Cleveland/Bradley County Chamber of Commerce.
Gann is also actively involved with her church, St. Therese of Lisieux Catholic Church, working with the finance board.
“There is something to be said about this type of work that makes it right to be involved in the community,” she said. “It all kind of meshes together.”
Gann said if she had known about what she does now 53 years ago, she would still have chosen her current profession.
“No doubt about it,” she said. “I find it rewarding. If you can do something that can make a difference for people, how great is that. I’d do it again. I would.”