Each year when Sarah Phalen celebrates her twin sons’ birthday, she thinks of Donna Smith. And when Donna celebrates a service anniversary, she often sends Sarah a text message wishing her sons a happy birthday.Donna Smith

So, it’s a very personal story that Sarah, INB’s president and CEO, shares about Donna’s 50 years in banking.  But before the personal story, Sarah focuses on Donna’s unsurpassed talent and how she has had an indelible mark on INB. Sarah says, “Donna showed me what it meant to be a true, personal banker.”

Sarah continues: “When I first met Donna, she was the branch manager at First National Bank on North Peoria Road/Sangamon Avenue.  She had served as the banker to the north end of Springfield for many years. And, boy, she knew everyone.  She and (now retired) Julie (Yuroff) had customer after customer come into the bank to see them.  Donna would talk to them about their families, their vacations, their dreams and their businesses.  She knew them all so well and had many generations that banked with her . . .  And I mean they did bank with her.  They didn’t care that the name of the bank was First National or Firstar or US Bank.  They knew Donna and they trusted her.

“When I was lucky enough to be working at INB and was told of the plan to open a north end branch, I knew immediately who we needed to run it.  I was able to convince Donna to leave Williamsville State Bank and come to INB and bring Julie with her as they were the team to have on North Dirksen Parkway.  Donna agreed to come to work starting Oct. 1, 2001.

The Best Person for the Job

“I was excited for her to start.  I guess my excitement caused me to go into labor because on Sept. 28 (the Friday before Donna started), I went into early labor with the twins.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to greet her when she started on Monday because I was held up in the hospital, but Debbie Shelton (Wabash and Montvale branch manager) and Marsha (Shomidie) Selvaggio (retired) took care of getting her set up.”

Marsha remembers those early days and how lucky INB was to get Donna on the INB team.  “Donna knew everyone on the north end of Springfield. Some of those friends were mutual, and that got us on good footing as we started working together.”

Marsha recalls Donna working downtown while construction on Dirksen Parkway was underway. “I think that really worked well for Donna,” Marsha says.  “She got to see how INB worked, which was important because every bank is a little different. Then she was really ready to work with her customers when we opened out north.”

Sarah continues the story: “When we got the branch built and opened in 2002, ALL of her customers followed her.  She just had to give them a call and once they heard she was at INB . . .  they came back to their personal banker and have stayed with her for 20 years.  So many people will miss Donna.  She has helped so many buy homes, buy cars, save money for vacations, save for retirement, work through loved one’s estates, consolidate debt, and start businesses.  She has been the constant in banking for over 40 years on the north end of Springfield, and you don’t see that anymore.  She is a true personal banker.”

Legacy of Teaching Through Action

Cayla Keyes remembers Donna for the great advice she offered other branch staff.  Cayla, vice president, retail sales manager, says, “I learned so much from Donna when I first came to INB.  She was one of my go-to people for everything loan related. She has always been a great sounding board to bounce situations off; she always had the experience to assist me.”  Cayla adds, “She has earned every bit of relaxation and fun that I know retirement will hold for her.”

North Dirksen Relationship Banker Dalton Garecht says it’s hard to know where to start when it comes to talking about Donna. Like others, he points to her customer service.  “Donna has done more for the customers than I could ever imagine doing.”

While there’s a bit of an age difference between he and Donna, Dalton appreciates Donna’s guidance and is a little concerned about her departure.  “She has been at north since I turned a year old! I was so excited to get to work with Donna and as much as it scares me for her to retire, I am happy for her. “

Dalton continues: “I have been very lucky being here with Donna, and I won’t ever forget sitting in her office every other day to hear a story or two of the crazy things she has seen. Craig Johnson (mortgage data analyst) and I sat with her one day talking about when INB opened and next thing we know Donna is showing us pictures when they broke ground on the north location. She has so much knowledge to share and it is very cool to share tasks with her. I am still trying to talk her out of leaving, but I don’t think I am making any progress... Jokes on her, I have her cell number so I can still call and stress her out every now and then!”

Still Time for Fun

Debbie Shelton says she looks back on Donna with a lot of respect.  She notes those early days at INB were simply excited, and when she learned Donna was coming to INB, she was wowed, noting she and Julie were a power team.  “Having them both come over to INB was just such an excellent fit.  Our management team has always been excellent, but these were experienced bankers. They made the transition so easily.  We had a lot going on with opening both north and south branches at the same time, so that was important.

“Donna and Julie were comforting. Solid.  And I couldn’t believe how quickly their branch grew.  That made me happy though I’m a bit competitive and it bothered me a little that they were growing faster than me!” Debbie chuckles. “People just knew Donna would take care of them, so they came to INB.”

Debbie says she liked going to events with Donna because Donna always knew everyone in the room. She also liked to have fun, coordinating INB’s participation in state fair activities for many years.  “You could count on her to volunteer or do something that needed to be done. When Marsha took a position with our Pleasant Plains location, Donna stepped in and took over Marsha’ volunteer work with the Senior Citizens Center.

Debbie sums up Donna’s work with INB this way: “How lucky can you be to have someone like her working with you?”

Keeping Legacy Intact

Dee Pedersen has the job of continuing the North Dirksen legacy that Donna established.  Dee says: “Donna has always been someone I could reach out to when I had a question or was struggling with something.  She always offered great advice and solutions to any problem I may have been having.  She is not only a great co-worker and mentor but also a great friend.  She will be missed greatly!!  I am honored that she has put her trust in me to carry on managing the North Branch.”

While he works from the bank’s main headquarters downtown, Steve Miller, vice president, client services, often worked with Donna. He says, “From the get go, Donna made me feel comfortable in reaching out to her for assistance. My presence in her branch meant I was there to roll out some type of change, and she always left me feeling good about what we were able to accomplish.”

Steve concludes with the thoughts we all have for Donna, “Here is wishing you a wonderful retirement. Enjoy this new chapter of your life, and I hope it's filled with good health, relaxation, and fun!”

Donna’s 50 Years in Banking

Donna will receive recognition from the Illinois Bankers Association when she retires for her 50 years in banking.  Here is Donna’s resume:

2001 – 2022


North Dirksen Parkway Branch Manager

May 2001 - Sept 2001

Williamsville State Bank & Trust

Assistant Branch Manager & Personal Banker

1993 - 2001

Firstar Bank (formerly Mercantile Bank/First National Bank)

Assistant Branch Manager & Personal Banker

1988 - 1993

First National Bank

Personal Banking Officer

1984 - 1988

Land of Lincoln Bank

Loan Administration Officer

1980 - 1984

Land of Lincoln Bank

Assistant Cashier & Assistant Trust Officer

1976 - 1980

Land of Lincoln Bank

Assistant Cashier

1973 - 1976

Land of Lincoln Bank

Mortgage Loan Assistant

1971 - 1973

Bank of America M.I.

Naval Station Branch, Guam, USA

General Ledger Bookkeeper