GBA Member Profile

Charles Sweat
Group 4 Rep., GBA Board of Directors
President and CEO
First Peoples Bank
Pine Mountain, GA


Q: What was your first job, and was there a lesson you learned there that you still use today?

A: My first job (in high school) was at Taco Bell. This was back in the day when their uniforms were 100% polyester, a flattering milk-chocolate brown and were topped off with a pointed paper hat. None of the ingredients were pre-cooked or pre-measured as they are today. We had a meticulous regional manager who would do surprise visits to shop and inspect the store. He would be armed with a stop watch and a set of scales to time the entire process and to weigh each ingredient used (by taking apart a fully loaded taco or burrito). While my 16-year-old brain thought only of the annoyance of these visits, they were the perfect example of setting consistent expectations and measuring results (both for the benefit of the customer and for the business). To this day, I can still stuff, fold and present a burrito in less than 30 seconds.


Q: Tell us a little bit about your career journey. What has been one favorite memory or experience so far?

A: My career journey in banking started during college as a summer travel team teller for C&S Bank in Atlanta. Upon graduation, I was fortunate enough to be hired on to their Management Associate Program and went through both their retail management program and the commercial program (likely due to my inability to master either). This training culminated in attending the C&S Credit School (a graduate-level accounting and finance curriculum) and ultimately finding myself the branch manager of a location on Fulton Industrial Boulevard in Atlanta. Following the purchase of C&S by NationsBank, I found my way to LaGrange as a commercial lender with Trust Company. The next 20 years were spent between Trust Company, First Federal (FLAG Bank) and starting up LaGrange Banking Company (Calumet Bank) as its founding CEO. The last six years have been spent at First Peoples Bank in Pine Mountain as their CEO and President. My wife (Diane), a retired educator, and I have recently moved into Callaway Gardens and, at this point, plan on retiring there.

Throughout my 36 years in banking, the six different banking organizations I have been involved with have had 17 different names, with one more to come with the pending SunTrust/BB&T merger. First Peoples Bank, however, has had the same name for the past 30 years. My personal goal is to retire in nine years with the bank maintaining its local independence (and name). With as many different organizations and people that I have worked with, a single memory doesn’t stand out above the rest. I will say, however, that one of the lessons I have learned is: Stay true to yourself, your employees and your customers, regardless of all that is going on around you. The world is full of far more wonderful people than the few that can try to drag you down.


Q: How has your involvement with GBA affected your career?

A: Without a doubt, the CEO roundtable that I have been involved in for the past six years has provided me with an unbelievable amount of exposure to a wealth of experience from other community bank CEO’s that I can access at any time with a quick email or phone call. “The Dirty Dozen” (as we are affectionately known) has members with far more experience than I do, all the way to recently named CEOs, and our markets range from the most rural areas of the state to Buckhead. Even with all the differences in markets, products, customers and economies, we continually find that, at the end of the day, community banking is basically the same everywhere and is vital to the economic and social success of each of our local areas.


Q: If you weren’t working in banking, what would you be doing instead, or what would your life be like?

A: My dream job has been and is still to be the “color” commentator for the Atlanta Braves television broadcast group. I have always been a receptacle of significantly useless baseball information and statistics. The biggest obstacle I have had to breaking into the business is that I have been told, on more than one occasion, that I have a wonderful “face for radio”.