Holland out as Farmers Bank chairman

Published 5:06 pm Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Richard J. “Dick” Holland Jr. is out as chairman of Farmers Bank.

According to a Feb. 15 press release, the Windsor-headquartered bank’s board of directors recently elected William A. Gwaltney Jr. in Holland’s place. Gwaltney, a board member since 1993, most recently served as vice chairman during Holland’s tenure.

Kent B. Spain, a board member since 2005, will be taking Gwaltney’s place as vice chairman.

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Holland Jr., the grandson of Farmers Bank founder Shirley T. Holland, declined to comment on the circumstances of his departure as chairman.

According to The Smithfield Times’ archives, Holland began his career in the family business in 1977 as a teller during his father Richard J. Holland Sr.’s tenure as the bank’s president and chief executive officer. By 1988, Holland Jr. had succeeded his father as president, and by 1994 was also serving as CEO, though the elder Holland stayed on as board chairman until his death in 2000.

Farmers’ current president and CEO, Vernon Towler, succeeded Holland Jr. in 2019, becoming the first in the role to come from outside the Holland family. But Holland Jr.’s departure as chairman isn’t the first time the bank’s board of directors has been without a Holland at the helm.

According to the Times’ archives, the board elected Robert C. Claud Sr. as its chairman in 2000 following the death of Holland Sr. Holland Jr., according to his LinkedIn profile, took over as chairman in 2012.

“The Board and staff appreciate Mr. Holland’s years of dedication to the organization and guidance over the past forty years and look forward to working under Mr. Gwaltney, Mr. Spain and the entire board’s leadership,” the bank’s press release states.

Towler also declined to comment on the change in the board’s leadership. He did, however, confirm Holland is still a member of the board, just no longer its chairman.

Farmers Bankshares Inc., as the publicly traded company is officially known, reported record earnings of $8.5 million, or $2.72 per share, in 2021, according to another press release the bank issued earlier this month.

Gwaltney, who could not be reached for comment, also has generational Isle of Wight County roots that keep the “farm” in Farmers Bank. He and his brother, Jesse Lane Gwaltney, are the latest owners of the circa-1885, 140-acre Indika Farm on Five Forks Road, which, according to the Times’ archives, originated with the Gwaltneys’ great-uncle. Gwaltney Jr. has served since 2003 as one of two elected directors of Virginia’s Peanut Soil and Water Conservation District, which serves Isle of Wight and Surry counties and the city of Suffolk.

Spain is an owner and agent of Suffolk Insurance Corp. and a trustee of the Birdsong Trust Fund, a private foundation the Birdsong family of Birdsong Peanuts and other members of the community started in the 1940s to provide grants to charitable causes in Suffolk and the surrounding area.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story reported Holland had stepped down. Holland has since gone on record saying his departure was involuntary.