The O'Fallon Progress
There is a maxim in world of banking that people want to do business with people they trust and respect. In O'Fallon, Doug Distler is the proof of the adage.
A life-long resident of this city, Distler, the president of First Bank, has devoted the past 40 years of his life to meeting the banking needs of metro east residents. And, in doing so, he also has focused his energies on being a good citizen of the community he calls home.
"I have done a number of jobs in banking over the past 40 years and it has all been involved with what I do in the community," said Distler in noting he considers himself to be a community banker.
Defining the term, he explained, "A community bank is in tune with the community. It is a community partner and it focuses its products and services on the needs of the community. A community bank also makes its staff very accessible to its customers and it is very involved in the community."
A community bank also provides leadership for businesses and civic organizations. And that is an area where Distler has excelled.
"I have been here my whole life and I have always been nvolved in the community," he said. "And I have served in many different capacitates on many projects over the years. I have spent a lot of years working with the Chamber of Commerce, where I served as president in 1979 and 1980. I am a member of the Rotary Club of O'Fallon. I served 10 years on YMCA board of directors. And I was a charter director of the O'Fallon Township High School endowment."
Distler also helped his high school alma mater by serving as treasurer for the recently completed successful campaign to pass a referendum supporting construction of a ninth grade campus for the school.
Calling that success "a proud moment," Distler said, "We listened to the people when they said they did not want new taxes and they wanted one high school. And everything was served with this referendum. It was well organized and they got the right message out. That was proven by the voters."
"The voters did the right thing because the school system is such an asset and such a big part of this community. It (the freshman campus) is what was needed. And I think we will have a great freshman campus that will allow the high school to do some good things that will keep unity in the community."
"It is a win for everybody," added Distler, who along with being president of First Bank's O'Fallon operation, also is president of the corporation's Southern Illinois Region.
Distler's commitment to O'Fallon is being recognized by the Chamber of Commerce and the Progress this Friday, April 27, when he will be given a citizenship award for business during a banquet at the Katy Cavins Center.
Reflecting on the award, he said, "It is quite an honor to be recognized and to be among such a group of distinguished people who have received the award in the past."
Distler graduated from OTHS and then went on to earn a bachelor's degree in finance at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. He began his banking career at the First National Bank of Belleville in 1967.
He said he chose a career in banking after college because he always had an interest in investment.
"An opportunity came to join the bank in Belleville and I took it," he explained. "My first job was as a teller. I made $300 a month, which was kind of tight because I had a wife and child."
He and his wife Nancy have been married 41 years. They have two sons - Scott, who lives in Orlando, Fla., and Steven, who lives in Chicago - and two grandchildren.
"But my career progressed pretty quickly," he noted. "I soon moved into an assistant auditor post and then I had an opportunity to move back to O'Fallon, which I was very glad to do."
He joined the First National Bank of O'Fallon as a vice president in 1974 and became president of the institution in 1982, soon after it ceased being a national bank and became First Bank and Trust, a state bank. That institution was acquired by First Bank in 1984 and one year later Distler was named the company's regional president for Southern Illinois, where he oversees 286 employees working in 31 branches spread across all of Illinois south of Springfield.
Those banks have more than $1 billion in deposits and have granted loans totaling more than $670 million.
Though he has spent nearly four decades in banking, Distler said he has no plans to retire anytime soon.
"I am having a lot of fun doing what I am doing and I hope to work until it stops being fun."
Meet Doug Distler:
Do you have words you live by?
"The Rotarian's Four Way Test is a perfect testament to what I use in my personal and professional life."
Whom do you most admire?
"My wife. I admire her for the compassion and support she gives our family and our friends, but most of all for her genuine good spirit."
What is the last book you read?
"'Good to Great' by Jim Collins."
If you could spend time with a famous person - past or present - who would it be and why?
"It would be Tiger Woods on a golf course. I like his approach to the game and his commitment to being the best."
What do you do when you are not working?
"I spend time with family and friends and play golf every opportunity I get."
What's the usual state of your desktop?
If you weren't in your current job, what would you be doing career wise?
"Once a banker always a banker. I have been in community banking for 40 years. I enjoy what I do and I have never considered doing anything else."
What do you think is your most outstanding characteristic?
"My ability to follow my instincts to do what is right."
What irritates you the most?
What type of music do you listen to?
"I enjoy all types of music. As long as it has a good beat and a great melody, I am fine with it."
What do you like most about your job?
Interacting with customers and mentoring my staff.
What do you like the least about your job?
"There is never enough time."
If you were independently wealthy, what would you be doing?
"The older I get I find the best, and most important, things in life are priceless."
What would people be most surprised to know about you?
"The Distler family was one of the first families to settle in O'Fallon and my grandfather's brother, Jim, was the first boy born in O'Fallon in 1855."
Who would play the title role in a movie about your life?
"I think it would be Jimmy Stewart from 'It's a Wonderful Life'."
If you were stranded on a deserted island, what would you have with you?
"I would have to say my family."