Advocacy Starts Locally

By Evan Sparks

In his local market of Carlsbad, New Mexico, banker engagement in public affairs and community life is “a job requirement,” says Jay Jenkins, president and CEO of Carlsbad National Bank, a $357 million-asset bank tucked in New Mexico’s far southeastern corner in a town with less than 30,000 residents.

“If we’re not successful economically here in Carlsbad, I may not have a job,” he explains.

Jenkins

That involvement spans everything from the chamber of commerce to the Little League to civic events and political activities. And local participation is something he requires of his bank officers, just as he was involved during the nearly two decades he’s been with the bank. In addition to his bank role, Jenkins serves in leadership roles with the Carlsbad economic development agency and with a local nonprofit serving people with special needs.

That involvement pays off when it comes to building valuable relationships with policymakers. For example, Jenkins recently got pulled into a meeting with the mayor of Carlsbad and Rep. Steve Pearce (R), a House Financial Services Committee member. The mayor wanted to have Jenkins’ perspective as a banker in the room. “Being involved locally helped with growing those relationships on a broader scale,” he says.

Jenkins emphasizes reaching out to lawmakers’ field staff. For example, Sen. Tom Udall (D) has a local office in Carlsbad. “I’ve continued to reach out to them,” Jenkins says. “They know I’ve got their back, and they’ve got mine.” In 2015, Udall visited the bank in person.

With bipartisan representation on Capitol Hill, Jenkins emphasizes the need to “work both sides” of the aisle and not limit relationships by party affiliation. “I vote for the person,” he says. “I’m going to favor the person who lines up with what we believe.”

In addition to expecting community and civic involvement from his officers, Jenkins also asks his board to contribute to the New Mexico BankPac, which he does personally. The bank’s holding company contributes to the Fund for Economic Growth. “By participating, we create the ability to get things done,” he says.

Jenkins has been taking his message of participation statewide in his current role as president of the New Mexico Bankers Association. “New Mexico is like a spread-out small city. If you’re involved a little, it’s easy to get to know people in other parts of the state.”

And whether you’re serving depositors, making loan deals, persuading lawmakers, recruiting companies to town or helping people in need, the personal relationships you build are what help drive the banking industry forward.

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About Evan Sparks

Evan Sparks
Evan Sparks is editor-in-chief of the ABA Banking Journal and vice president for editorial services at the American Bankers Association.