Miller coach of a winning crew at Community First

Miller coach of a winning crew at Community First One might think the manager of a bank and the coach of a sports team have little in common. Roxi Miller of Community First State Bank, Vermillion, however, maintains that the roles are similar.

For her, a background in coaching has become an integral part of her role as president of Community First, where she meets with her "team" weekly to discuss "game plans" and "strategies."

"I tell everyone I am a head coach," Miller said. "When you put a team together in sports, you try to play on the strengths of all your players. As a manager of a bank, you need people around you who are better than you in some areas. I have an excellent team."

Miller, who started banking in 1971, was headed for a career in physical education, which seemed a natural fit for a well-rounded athlete who played softball, volleyball and tennis.

Her career path took a detour, however, when she started working in support at First Bank System Inc. (now U.S. Bancorp).

She quickly took on more responsibility. Ultimately, the challenge the bank offered � along with the opportunity to work closely with the public � enticed her to stay in banking.

She left college and at the age of 23 was promoted to a retail officer. Soon she became involved lending and that initial detour ended up taking her down a new career path.

The next, and perhaps most decisive, detour, came on Aug. 15, 1985. Miller said she remembers it like it was yesterday. Vern Holter, then a president at First Bank System, gathered his staff at the conference room and informed everyone the holding company was selling off many of its smaller banks.

A crestfallen Miller began to line up interviesw and consider the next curve in the road, when she discovered that Don Mengedoth, regional manager of North Dakota, and Mark Anderson, chief financial officer, were putting together a group of 21 small- and mid-size banks that had been divested.

The opportunity to join their new venture, Community First Bancshares, was attractive. Miller decided to take a chance and stay on with the bank.

"I spoke every day with Mark Anderson and Don Mengedoth," said Miller. "Mark said, 'Trust me. This will work. Stick with it and you won't be sorry.' And I haven't been. I stayed on purely on a gut feeling that this was going to work. I found that good things happen � that opportunity comes � with change."

But making the transition to the new company wasn't easy. It required her to relocate with her husband and three sons to Vermillion from Huron, without knowing exactly what she was getting into. Her perseverance and patience paid off.

In 1993, Miller graduated from a program through Community First Bancshares called "Future CFB," which paired high-potential bankers with mentors. Miller's mentor was none other than the man who had encouraged her to stay with the bank, Mark Anderson. In June 1996, she was named vice president and a year later, Miller had taken the reins as president of Community First State Bank.

Miller's responsibilities extend further than simply managing the bank. Her position is much the same as that of the manager of a sports team. When she recognizes potential among some of her team members, she encourages them to hone their skills and their expectations.

"I would stack my team up against anyone in the system as the best in the business," Miller said. "I have been able to promote from within and I have been able to support people, just as people in the past saw that I had potential and helped me to realize it."

Miller has navigated her career through unsteady waters and has overcome adversity in her personal life as well. In June 1996, she was diagnosed with cancer and wasn't given a positive prognosis. She has triumphed, however, and the disease is in remission.

Change and adversity have not deterred Miller from being active. Her love of sports, which prepared her for a successful career in banking, is still a part of her life. She coaches a girls' fastpitch softball team, sponsored by Community First, which she took to the state tournament last summer.

Miller's love of sports rubbed off on her family also. Of course, having an enthusiastic mother isn't always fun for her sons. "My boys don't like to hear from their mom when they should have made a pass or tackle," she laughed.

Editor's note: This article appeared in the Nov. 18 issue of Northwestern Financial Review. Since 1988, the magazine has recognized women in banking who are making outstanding contributions to their bank, community and industry. The article is reprinted with the magazine's permission.

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