Duane Bussey has been with San Luis Valley Federal Bank for 39 years. He’s been in it for the long haul with lots of things in his life, but he’s ready to step mostly away from the bank, and enjoy more time with his wife of 41 years Lorey, the rest of his family and some of the passions he’s developed over the years. He’ll stay on the bank’s Board of Directors, but won’t be involved in the day-to-day operations after September 10. Mark Bechaver, who has been with the bank for 29 years, will succeed him as CEO.
Bussey was born in Michigan, moved to Colorado Springs at age four and came to Alamosa to attend Adams State in 1976. His assistant high school basketball coach Steve Posegate, who played for Adams State in the early ’70s, set up a recruiting visit for Bussey to visit Alamosa and Adams State. Bussey liked the coach (Rick Marriott) and the school environment and decided it would be a great place to get an education and continue playing basketball. Bussey said, “I had great overall college experience as a student-athlete, and I met the love of my life Lorey as a student there. How do you beat that?”
He started with the bank as a Loan Officer after graduating from Adams State College in 1982. “I interviewed for a number of jobs after graduating and the offers I received just weren’t a good fit. When the opening came up at the bank, I thought it would provide a great first work experience. Lorey and I only planned to stay in Alamosa for a few years and then head to the Front Range. Thirty-nine years, three daughters and four grandchildren later we’re still here. Alamosa and the Valley became our home, and we have no plans to leave now.”
Bussey served as a Loan Officer at SLV Federal for almost 17 years. He became the Senior Vice President in 1999 upon CEO Bob Foote’s retirement and five years later in 2004, he moved into the CEO position when Dale Hettinger retired. Hettinger had been at the bank for 40 years, and Foote served for 38 years. “There’s a history of long and loyal service at SLV Federal,” said Bussey, “which is an indication the bank is a great place to work.
I had so much respect for the people who mentored me at the bank, both at the management and board level. Bob, Dale, Ray Johnson and Toney Cantu were the senior management leaders as I was coming up. They not only said the right things, but their actions matched their words.
They were respected in the community and I always held them in the highest esteem. I knew I had much to live up to and it motivated me to get more involved in the community and learn as much about banking as I could.”
The bank has had steady growth over Bussey’s tenure, going from $157 million in assets to $360 million.
A new branch was added in West Alamosa in 2006 and the bank purchased and remodeled the former Alamosa County Office building in 2016. It is currently completing a major remodel of its Main Office. The bank has expanded its services to include business banking and added many digital services including online and mobile banking. A Mutual Holding Company was formed in 2019 to provide more opportunities for growth and diversification. “It’s been challenging to keep up with all of the changes in the banking business, which we couldn’t have done without the loyal support of our members,” said Bussey.
Community service has always been strongly encouraged at the bank and SLV Federal has had an outstanding history of supporting community events and organizations. During Bussey’s 17 years as CEO, the bank has contributed over $3 million to community organizations and local events. It didn’t take lots of encouragement to get Bussey involved in community activities. “I’ve had so many great volunteer experiences in our community, mostly because they’ve all involved great people,” said Bussey. “One of the benefits of being in a small town and volunteering your time, is you get to see the results of each group’s work, up close. I was able to represent the bank and got so much satisfaction from giving back. I plan to continue my involvement with the community, and would like to help promote financial literacy and help to find solutions to our housing challenges.”
He looks forward to spending more time with his family, fly fishing the Valley’s amazing waters, improving his “marginal” golf game and traveling. “I couldn’t have found a better place to work or community to be part of,” said Bussey.
“It’s been an honor and privilege to work for and lead San Luis Valley Federal Bank for so many years and I will always be thankful for the people who invested in me and the relationships I built.”
“It was with mixed emotions that the Board of Directors of the Bank accepted Duane’s retirement plans several years ago,” said Board Chairman Karla Shriver. “We are very happy for Duane and his family for his next chapter of life, but we also know he has been a tremendous leader for the bank and he will be missed in that role. Duane will still be a board member where he will continue to provide valuable insight and input for the direction of the bank. The Board is excited that long time employee Mark Bechaver will take over the helm, and lead the great team of bank employees. Mark is an excellent choice to assume Duane’s role, and the Board has complete confidence that he will help guide the bank into the future for the benefit of its members, staff, and the community. The Board congratulates both Duane and Mark in these next steps,” said Shriver.
Mark Bechaver has also enjoyed a long career at the bank, serving in a number of roles including bank appraiser, Loan Officer, Chief Lending Officer and as the President for the last two years. He and Bussey have been working together for the last 18 months on succession issues and training to ensure a smooth transition. “Mark has done an outstanding job in everything he has done for the bank over the years and I’m excited to watch how his leadership team will move the bank to another level of success,” said Bussey. “He’s a high character person with an amazing work ethic, which are the traits we’ve been fortunate to have in our leaders over the years.”
Bechaver was born in Del Norte, and has lived in Manassa for many years. He graduated from Centauri High School and Adams State with a B.S. degree in Business Management. His family has been involved in ranching in Conejos County and Northern New Mexico for many years, and that’s a passion he spends most of his weekends committed to.
He and his wife Sheli have three adult children and two grandchildren who are all here in the Valley. His agriculture background and current ranching experience give him a great perspective on this most important sector of the Valley’s economy. He’s been involved in a variety of ag and conservation committees and organizations.
“I am humbled and honored for the opportunity to succeed Duane,” said Bechaver. “He will be missed and we wish him and his family all the best in retirement. I appreciate the opportunity we’ve had to work together, especially the last 18 months as we worked on our succession plan. I’ve got lots of talented and dedicated people at both the board and staff level committed to innovation and to serving our members. We’ve got so many great community relationships and we look forward to serving them all long into the future.”