HAZARD – In less than two weeks, Tony Whitaker will step down as CEO of First Federal Bancorp, the parent company of First Federal Savings & Loan of Hazard, and during a reception on Thursday expressed his admiration and appreciation to the city of Hazard, where he has made his home for the past 15 years.
Whitaker, who also served several years as president of the local chamber of commerce, will remain chairman of the company’s board of directors. Don Jennings, the current CEO of the company’s Frankfort location, will take on Whitaker’s role as chief executive officer, while Lou Ella Farler will become CEO of the Hazard First Federal bank, a job for which she has been transitioning for the past few months.
First Federal in Hazard hosted a reception for Whitaker in the bank’s lobby on Thursday, during which he noted that the best of his four decades of experience in the banking business were spent in Perry County.
“My best years have been with this bank here in Hazard, and living in this town the last 15 years or so,” Whitaker said.
Whitaker plans to move to Louisville to be close to his daughter and grandchildren, but will remain active with the company as board chairman. The transition once he steps down in Hazard will be seamless, he added, and for the customer there shouldn’t be any difference as the bank will continue to offer the same service and products. And he expects the bank to continue to thrive with Farler serving as its CEO.
“Through the year I’ve transitioned, and Lou Ella pretty much got hands on and made most of the decisions,” he said.
He added that were his family not living in Louisville he’d likely remain in Hazard, and expressed his appreciation to the people here for welcoming him into the community when he arrived in the 1990s.
“I appreciate the good town I’ve had the opportunity to live in, the boards that I’ve had and the people I’ve been able to work with,” he said, “and most of all our customers.”
Whitaker will step down as CEO on Dec. 31.