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Path was set by interview 50 years ago

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50 years on the job

Bill Piotrowski relaxes at the Northwestern Bank in Chippewa Falls on Thursday, Feb. 5. Piotrowski received an honor by the Wisconsin Bank Association for working 50 years for the bank.

Bill Piotrowski wasn’t looking to go on a job interview. But Addison Langill thought Piotrowski should.

Piotrowski had learned some utility line skills while serving in the Army National Guard. When his time in the military was done, he had his eye on working for one of two utilities.

“I was going to go with Northern States Power or Wisconsin Bell,” he recalled this week.

He knew going back to work stocking the Chippewa Falls store of the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company was something he didn’t want to do. But Piotrowski hadn’t thought of getting a job with Northwestern Bank in Chippewa Falls.

However, Piotrowski’s father and uncle were friends with Langill, the bank’s president.

“Send your son down. I want to talk to him,” Langill said in a phone call to the Piotrowski household.

“I thought, ‘Well, what do I have to lose?’” Piotrowski reasoned.

A job at the bank would keep him in the area, near his family. It would allow him to continue hunting and fishing, and offer him good benefits and pay.

“It was just a good fit. I really didn’t want to go to the Twin Cities,” the 72-year-old Chippewa Falls man said this week.

So, as it turned out, Piotrowski had a lot to gain with that successful job interview.

So did the Chippewa Falls bank.

Carving out a career

Piotrowski, a member of the McDonell Central High School Class of 1960, began working for the bank in January 1965.

On Thursday, he was honored at the state’s largest banking event, the Wisconsin Bankers Association Bank Executives Conference in Milwaukee. Along with nine other inductees, Piotrowski was recognized into the WBA’s 50 Year Club for extraordinary service to Wisconsin’s financial industry.

His official title at work is teller. But he does a lot of things, including working in the vault area once a week.

Helping people, the bank’s customers, is what he enjoys most. “Actually, that’s the fun part, meeting the people,” Piotrowski said.

He is good at it, too. Really good.

“He’s an old-school type banker that you’re not going to see again,” said Jerry Jacobson, Northwestern Bank’s president. “He cares deeply about the personal lives of his customers — they’re not the bank’s customers, they’re his customers.”

When Jacobson began working for the bank in 1978, he worked for a time as a teller alongside Piotrowski, and saw first-hand how a good teller operates.

“Bill was so good with customers. He was the type of guy who could joke with them and get them feeling good, and that’s still the way he is,” Jacobson said. He noted there are times when a teller is free and there is still a line in the bank, because people want to spend time with Piotrowski and swap stories.

“He’s one of the most liked people in the 36 years I’ve worked here. Everyone just enjoys Bill.”

While Piotrowski hasn’t changed, other things have. Through the years he has seen plenty of changes. Except for Sokup’s Market, community grocery stores have disappeared in Chippewa Falls. Some changes happened gradually, day by day. Others came all at once.

“When the Cobban Block burned, we had front-row seats,” he recalled. Years later, Korger’s Decorating and Fine Furniture would build its current store on the site, across the street from the bank.

People have changed, too. At least the names have slightly changed.

“I’m on at least my third generation of the same family,” he said of the bank’s present-day customers.

Piotrowski now sees them a little less frequently. On Jan. 1, he cut back his work schedule from five days a week to three.

“I’m still wondering what to do on Mondays and Tuesdays,” he said, although he enjoys having two weekdays free to make appointments and to do errands.

Piotrowski could retire, but he said he doesn’t have a hobby. He enjoys having a place where he can work — a place that he can help possibly with a fourth or, even, a fifth generation of the same family.

“I enjoy it, the interactions with the customers,” he said.

Addison Langill would be pleased his bank is still benefiting from a job interview in 1965.

“He’s an old-school type banker that you’re not going to see again.” Jerry Jacobson, president, Northwestern Bank

“I’m on at least my third generation of the same family.” Bill Piotrowski, Northwestern Bank employee

“I’m on at least my third generation of the same family."

Bill Piotrowski, Northwestern Bank employee

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"He's an old-school type banker that you're not going to see again."

Jerry Jacobson, president, Northwestern Bank

Quote
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