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April 17, 2018

Shook leaves Middleburg Bank for chance to build

Photo/Lawrence Emerson
Blue Rige Bank President Brian Plum and his board hired Warrenton resident Gary Shook (right) to help the Luray-based institution grow. Blue Ridge plans to seek a charter and raise capital to start Carolina State Bank in Greensboro, N.C.
We have a vision for our bank, and it is to become one of the premier community banks in Virginia. We are extremely fortunate that Gary has made himself available . . . . You need that kind of talent.
— Blue Ridge Bank Chairman Larry Dees
Gary R. Shook
• Age: 57

• Work: President, Blue Ridge Bank, headquartered in Luray, starting April 16.

• Experience: President/CEO, Middleburg Bank, 2005-18; chairman/CEO Wealth Services, Access National Bank, 2017-18; senior vice president, The Fauquier Bank, 1995-2005; vice president sales & marketing, Jefferson National Bank, 1987-95.

• Education: Bachelor’s degree, history/economics, University of Virginia, 1982.

• Family: Wife, Ann-Rodman Shook, and four children.
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Editor
After two dozen years working in and around Fauquier, the well-known banker has joined a smaller, Luray-based institution with big plans.

Gary Shook started work Monday as the new president of Blue Ridge Bank. Mr. Shook last month resigned after 14 years with Middleburg Bank and the Reston-based company that bought it in 2017. The Warrenton resident served as Middleburg’s CEO and then as chairman and CEO of Wealth Services at Access National Bank.

From 1995 to 2005, Mr. Shook worked as a senior vice president of The Fauquier Bank.

“My brand of banking has always been community banking,” said the 57-year-old Chesapeake native. “It focuses on the core constituencies of clients, employees, the community and then the shareholders.

“I’ve always thought if you focus that way, the shareholders will do well.”

As Middleburg’s CEO, Mr. Shook before the 2017 merger faced a torrent of pressure from David Sokol, who owned 30 percent of the stock and wanted the bank sold.

Mr. Shook stands behind Middleburg Bank’s performance during his leadership and notes that Access ultimately paid shareholders “two and a half times book value” for their stock.

But, he suddenly has other things on his mind, specifically helping Blue Ridge — with a mere $424 million in total assets compared to $2.8 billion at Access — grow along “the Route 29 corridor.” That extends from Charlottesville, where he’ll work from Blue Ridge’s branch, into North Carolina.

Blue Ridge plans to apply for a charter and raise capital to start Carolina State Bank in Greensboro. Blue Ridge in late 2016 bought River Bancorp Inc., based in Martinsville. The acquisition included a mortgage company headquartered in Greensboro, with eight offices in North Carolina.

Mergers have consolidated much of North Carolina’s banking industry, creating opportunity for institutions that focus on “community,” according to Blue Ridge CEO Brian K. Plum.

Additionally, Mr. Plum and his board believe Blue Ridge must grow “not only for shareholders but to be able to compete and offer expanded services,” including larger loans, he said.

“We have a vision for our bank, and it is to become one of the premier community banks in Virginia,” Blue Ridge Chairman Larry Dees said. “And, it appears we have stretched Brian rather thin.

“We are extremely fortunate that Gary has made himself available. He has the expertise in community banking . . . . You need that kind of talent.”

Well-known in the industry, Mr. Shook served as the Virginia Bankers Association president in 2013-14.

He and Mr. Plum started talking about the new job last fall. They met regularly in a Sperryville coffee shop to talk about the business and the possibility of working together.

As spring approached, they reached an agreement. Blue Ridge’s board vetted Mr. Shook and conducted an in-depth investigation. On March 20, he resigned from Access to accept the job from a bank CEO 19 years his junior.

During an interview last Thursday in Luray, the duo talked more than two hours about business, politics, the economy and the potential for Blue Ridge.

Mr. Shook as the new president and chief operating officer plans to visit all eight bank branches and all the mortgage offices in the next few weeks, introducing himself to 125 employees. He has a full calendar of day and evening meetings in two states.

But, the drive from Warrenton to Charlottesville typically takes less time than getting to Reston, he said.

“Regulatory and board-wise, I’ve seen it and done it,” Mr. Shook said. “That experience brings real value. That’s my excitement; that’s my interest . . . the ability to help grow something, the ability to use the things I’ve learned from the bottom up.”

Turning to Mr. Plum, he added with a smile: “The strategy of this growth is his . . . . As I thought about this, I asked friends, ‘Who has worked for a 38-year-old?’

“The other piece of incentive for me is to be an investor in the long-term viability of the company.”

Mr. Shook said he plans to work another “10 to 12 years.” He and his wife have talked about retiring to Charlottesville, where he went to college. The new job might dovetail nicely with that plan.

Blue Ridge Bank 2017 Annual Report by Fauquier Now on Scribd

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