After more then 50 years of loyal service to Farmers & Merchants Bancorp, Ole Mettler will work his last official day with the company's board of directors today.
Mettler, a native Lodian who has served as chairman of the board for 37 years, was unanimously voted to the position of chairman emeritus earlier this month. The honorary and non-voting role will enable Mettler to serve as a community ambassador for F&M Bank, as well as an adviser to executive management.
"Words cannot describe the positive and long-lasting impact that Ole Mettler has had on this outstanding 94-year-old institution and the Lodi community," said Kent Steinwert, CEO and president of Farmers & Merchants Bank, in a press release. "Throughout his lifetime, Ole has been involved in various human service organizations committed to improving the quality of life for citizens in California's Great Central Valley."
'A straight-laced all-American'
One group Ole Mettler is committed to is the Lodi Rotary Club. Larry Mettler, a distant cousin of Ole Mettler's, said he's never seen him miss a meeting in the 30 years he's been a part of the organization.
"When he commits to something, he does it," Larry Mettler said. "It says a lot about his commitment to make a meeting every week."
Rotary meetings can be rescheduled due to travel or illness, but Larry Mettler said Ole Mettler makes sure to give the organization his time and efforts. If he's ever been away while a meeting is conducted, Larry Mettler said, he makes it up before the next one.
Although he hasn't worked directly with Ole Mettler, Frank Alegre, owner of Alegre Trucking, knows he is an honest and hard-working man.
"You can tell just by seeing him in public and how he carries himself," he said. "I've never heard a bad word about him."
A friend of Mettler's was quick to talk about his giving nature, selfless attitude and professional demeanor.
"He's always in a suit and tie," said Mark Armstrong, general manager of the Lodi Grape Festival and Harvest Fair. "He's a straight-laced all-American."
Ole Mettler's professionalism and dedication to the Grape Festival is unparalleled, Armstrong said. He was recently given an award from the Western Fairs Association for his 60 years of service to the group, just one of many awards he has received during his lifetime.
"We've given him every award and named a building after him," Armstrong said, referring to the Ole Mettler Grape Pavilion on the Grape Festival Grounds.
Mettler's sacrifice and giving nature are just a part of who he is, he said. He doesn't do what he does for attention, awards or accolades, Armstrong said.
Not completely gone, and never forgotten
While Mettler is cutting back his duties with the bank, Steinwert said he was grateful to still have access to the man's vast experience and knowledge.
"All of us at the bank deeply appreciate Ole's valuable leadership. We are extremely pleased that he is willing to remain involved at the company as chairman emeritus," Steinwert said in a press release.
Leadership has always come naturally to Mettler. The native Lodian served as president of the Future Farmers of America when he attended Lodi High School. Years later, after he graduated from University of California, Berkeley, with a degree in agriculture economics, he would serve as chairman of the board and CEO for the California Future Farmers of America Foundation.
In 1960, Mettler started his career with F&M Bank. He served a president until 1994 and helped the bank grow from $37 million to $1.7 billion in total assets. He also helped oversee the bank as it expanded into new territories and markets.
Service to family and the community
Ole Mettler at a glance— Former president of F&M Bank.
— Former director for the American Institute of Banking and the California Community Reinvestment Corporation.
— He was a founding member of the San Joaquin Partnership, a nonprofit economic development organization.
— Served on the Grape Festival's board of directors for more than 50 years.
— Elected to Lodi's Hall of Fame in September 2007.
He has given his time and energy to a plethora of organizations, including Lodi Memorial Hospital, the American Legion, the Lodi District Grape Growers, the Lodi Grape Festival and National Wine Show, the University of California Agricultural Advisory Council and the San Joaquin County Farm Bureau.
Obviously, Mettler's leadership experience in the banking industry is vast as well.
He served as a director of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, president of both the Independent Bankers of Northern California and the California Bankers Association.
In 2002, he was the first banker to receive the California Bankers Association's annual Distinguished Banker of the Year award.
Despite his well-earned reputation as hard-working businessman, articles from the Lodi News-Sentinel's archives showed that Mettler was capable of living life to the fullest and enjoying himself as well. An article from the sports section of the Jan. 21, 1941, News-Sentinel talked about a skiing trip to Sun Valley Mettler and four of his friends went on. They reported seeing famous skiers who were at Sun Valley practicing for an upcoming competition.
Mettler lives in Lodi with his wife of 68 years, Dorothy. The couple have two children, four grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Despite scaling back his duties with the bank, Mettler said in a press release that he won't stop serving the city he loves.
"I am looking forward to enjoying more time with my wife Dorothy and our family," he said. "However, my commitment to Farmers & Merchants Bank and our community will continue."
This story was updated at 10:25 a.m. March 31, 2010, to correct the name of the Rotary club to which Ole Mettler belongs.