New bank in old location

March 21, 2003 12:00 am
Bank organizers Peter Johnson (left) and Pete Kerns stand in front of the former El Capitan National Bank bulding in Sonora, where they hope to open the proposed Mother Lode Bank. (Erin Mayes, The Union Democrat/Copyright 2003).
Bank organizers Peter Johnson (left) and Pete Kerns stand in front of the former El Capitan National Bank bulding in Sonora, where they hope to open the proposed Mother Lode Bank. (Erin Mayes, The Union Democrat/Copyright 2003).

By ERIN MAYES

A new bank is pegged for a Sonora location where banking is a tradition.

The proposed Mother Lode Bank would be housed in the old El Capitan National Bank building at 172 W. Stockton Road.

Organizers must wait until banking regulatory agencies give final approval to the proposal before they can announce the bank will open for certain.

The name "Mother Lode" is also nothing new for the old location, which housed the Mother Lode Bank for a number of years before it became El Capitan in 1975.

About two dozen leading business and community members are organizing the venture. One of them, Peter Kerns, is to lead the bank's board of trustees, the same position he held for El Capitan. Kerns is also chairman of the Board of Trustees of Yosemite Title Company. He has served as president of the county Board of Realtors, on the county Planning Commission and as director of the former Tuolumne Water District No. 2.

"It was a real enjoyment to be involved," Kerns said.

The proposed bank's president would be Peter Johnson. No stranger to banking, Johnson was most recently involved with the merger of Valley Oaks National Bank in Solvang, in Santa Barbara County. Valley Oaks merged with Montecito Bank and Trust in Santa Barbara. Looking to help start another bank in a small community, Johnson said he essentially applied for the job as president of Mother Lode Bank.

"I've done it several times and I really enjoy it — putting together a community's locally owned bank — because I just enjoy working for them," Johnson said.

Johnson is borrowing office space in the business building on Old Wards Ferry Road, where Sam Wheeler, one of the bank's organizers, operates his accounting business.

Johnson said he believes the community wants a locally operated bank. In fact, bank organizers commissioned a study of the area to find out whether another financial institution is needed and whether a bank headquartered in Sonora is needed. Based on the study, Johnson said the bank organizers believe their plan will succeed.