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Co-founder Dick Valentine retires from United Community Bank
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Dick Valentine stands next to a photo of the 53 founders of United Community Bank in Hall County, a group of which he was part 11 years ago. - photo by Kristen Oliver

In 2005, Dick Valentine joined 52 other Georgia bankers to start something meaningful in Hall County.

Now, United Community Bank’s veteran banking leader, regional president and CEO is retiring and making way for longtime Gainesville banker Will White.

Valentine’s final day with the bank was Thursday after more than a decade at the community bank.

“Eleven years ago, we brought a group that initially started with 53 people, many of whom left Regions to start the Hall County operation for United,” he said. “So we all came together as a group, and we had a small branch up in Murrayville at the time. That was the only Hall County presence.”

Today, United is No. 4 in size in the market, he said, as measured by deposits.

While many came from Regions to start United, others came from the old First National Bank in Gainesville, including Valentine.

“I started my career in ’77, with Trust Company Bank in Atlanta, which is now SunTrust,” he said. “I’m from here originally, and one day I got a phone call to come back to Gainesville years ago to First National Bank.”

The bank subsequently merged with Regions, which then was sold to union planners.

“It was time to get back to community banking,” Valentine said. “So we chose to join United Community Bank, which runs a community bank model.”

A community bank has more local decision-making and autonomy than other super-regional banks, he said, allowing the bank to better serve its market.

“We’re not in a one-box-fits-all model,” he said. “Each community is different, and we’re allowed to run independent banks that can serve our unique community.”

The University of Georgia graduate and self-proclaimed “Dawg” has a general business-finance degree from the university.

David Smith, executive director of Center Point, stopped by the bank Thursday and sang praises for the charitable work Valentine has done in the community.

“This man has really done good here,” Smith said.

Valentine is the former chairman of the United Way of Hall County, of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, of the Economic Development Council, former president of the Chattahoochee Country Club and the Gainesville Jaycees, and he was their Young Man of the Year in 1987.

Valentine will continue some of this work in retirement, while he plans to “play a lot of golf” and visit with his family, including a son in Athens, a daughter in Atlanta and his 93-year-old mother who lives here.

The decision to retire followed the recent death of his older brother after a two-year battle with kidney cancer.

“It just put a different perspective on life, as those things do,” he said. “That’s really it, because I love the company. It’s a great company to work for, and I couldn’t find a finer group to work with. The people here are outstanding and we’ve worked together a long time. It was hard decision, but it was just time.”

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