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Changes At the Top for Burke & Herbert

There's a new chairman in town, and he's not a Burke or a Herbert.

At a meeting on Feb. 20, the Board of Director of Burke and Herbert Bank and Trust Company made two significant changes at the top of the institution's hierarchy. Charles K. Collum, Jr., was named Chairman of the Board and E. Hunt Burke was promoted to President. Previously, Collum was president and Burke served as senior executive vice president.

David M. Burke, who has served as chairman since 1998, will now function as chairman emeritus, according to Collum. "He is going to be coming in three days a week to serve his customers but will be retiring from day-to-day operations," he explained.

Collum became the fifth chairman of the bank and only the second non-Burke to serve in that position over its 150 year history. One of the longest serving non-Burke chairman was Dr. Carson Lee Fifer. He held the position from 1964 to 1991.

The position did not exist at B&H before 1933 when the federal government required the bank to incorporate in order to reopen after President Roosevelt closed all banks to stop a rush on currency as a result of the Great Depression. Prior to that, B&H had been operated as a partnership for 81 years with no legalistic documentation, only a handshake.

However, it has been one of Virginia's most successful banks since it was founded in 1852 by John Woolfolk Burke and Arthur Herbert. When they became the founders of Alexandria's third bank, they were ages 27 and 23, respectively. Of the three, only B&H survives today.

COLLUM JOINED Burke and Herbert the day after Labor Day in 1971 after serving as a branch manager for the now defunct Alexandria National Bank where he began his banking career right out of high school. "I liked banking so much I never did go on to college," he revealed.

Hired by David Burke, Collum served as cashier and assistant vice president, prior to becoming president in 1999. He was the first non-Burke to be a truly functioning president. Ralph Bogle served in the position following the death of C.S.Taylor Burke, Sr., in 1951 only because it was determined that C.S.Taylor Burke, Jr., at age 30 was too young to assume the post.

When he did take over, Taylor, Jr., first as president, then as Chairman of the Board, presided over a 52-year tenure that saw the bank's assets balloon from $10 million to more than $800 million.

Hunt Burke began his official affiliation with B&H in January 1980. Unofficially, he has been actively involved in one capacity or another since age 13. In addition to serving as executive vice president he has functioned as the bank's operations officer and loan officer among other duties over the years.

"Now I get to take all the phone calls from people who say they want to speak to the president," Burke said. "But, I intend to stay in the office I have. We like it there," referring to his executive secretary Betty Crump. Burke will also serve as the bank's chief operating officer.

Collum, who also has a dual role as chief executive officer, plans to remain in his present office as well which is directly over Burke's. "That way we can still communicate by either pounding on the floor or the ceiling," he clarified.

"We have a really good operating team at this bank. That's why we will continue to conduct business as usual," Collum said. "The titles may change but the suspects remain the same," Burke added.

ONE CHANGE THAT is now in the works is to put a new branch office in the Dale City area within the next 12 months. "But, we are not going to change the things that have made this bank a success for the past 150 years. It will continue to operate as a community bank, slowly expanding its perimeters," they agreed.

The recent Board actions was not unanticipated. "We have had a succession plan in place for many years. We have a very active Board and it was a good transition time for David," Burke explained. "He has had some health problems and wanted to scale back."

In other changes, C.S. Taylor Burke, III, will become senior executive vice president and Jeffery Stryler will assume the role of executive vice president.

When he was named to the Board in 1995, Collum said, "That was something I never thought would happen to me. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time."

History does repeat itself.