Our small businesses are the backbone of the community. They rely on resources to stay afloat, and Thurston County is lucky to have the Thurston Economic Development Council (EDC) as a way to get the help they need to survive and thrive. Carrie Whisler, chief credit officer of Olympia Federal Savings, served as the president for the Thurston EDC Board of Directors in 2019 and 2020 and saw firsthand how important it is to support our local businesses through thick and thin. She has dedicated her professional life to helping people achieve their goals both personally and professionally, and she has been thrilled to translate this goal into her role with the EDC board.
Carrie has lived in Thurston County for most of her life and has been working as a community banker since 2004. “I couldn’t find a job out of college, so when my mom suggested I try banking I gave it a shot,” Carrie recalls. She returned to her hometown of Tenino to start her first bank job with a larger bank. As great as the opportunity was, Carrie quickly realized how important it was to her to make a greater local impact. “It became clear I wanted to work with the community and that’s how I got started in small community banking,” she adds.
Carrie joined Olympia Federal Savings in 2006. “Their value system attracted me,” she says. This community-centered bank places huge emphasis on helping local people achieve their goals of homeownership or business ownership and are deeply involved in nonprofit organizations in the area, which makes the job very rewarding. “We are always thinking about how we can help lift everyone up, whether it’s through resources, programs, access or availability,” Carrie shares.
In banking, Carrie works a lot with prospective and current businessowners. She always wants to set her client up for success, which is what led her to the Thurston EDC in the first place. “There are a lot of small businesses that need help with things that as a lender you couldn’t help them with,” Carrie says. “It is nice to have a partner in the community that can help people succeed.” The Thurston EDC goes beyond the financial scope and helps current and potential businessowners gain the training, legal help and planning assistance they need to operate a successful business in Thurston county.
Carrie started out by referring her clients to the Thurston EDC and eventually joined the board for the Thurston EDC Center for Business and Innovation. Through her time here, she was able to connect with other community members and was asked to join the Thurston EDC board. Economic development has always been at the heart of Carrie’s work, so she gladly accepted. She has now been on the board for six years and just finished serving her two years as president.
Half of her presidential term was during the initial shutdowns and the pandemic, which brought its own set of challenges and needs. “I think I was the right person for the job,” Carrie says. “I am a very positive person and truly believe in being flexible, which was necessary at that time.” She immediately shifted gears and began reevaluating goals and priorities to make sure those with the greatest needs were being helped first.
Throughout the pandemic, the biggest realization was that it isn’t always about business and finances. With an unprecedented time of unknowns and challenges, mental health was an absolute priority, and the Thurston EDC made sure to address this need just as much as the business side. “The pandemic really brought out the human side of being on the board,” Carrie recalls. “It showed how important the family and human side of life is, and we are so lucky to have people in our community that go above and beyond to make it better.”
Carrie has been equally impressed with the staff at Olympia Federal Savings for the same reason. They have been deeply committed to developing a system to ensure they would be able to continue to serve the community throughout the pandemic. Olympia Federal Savings is an organization that puts people first, and Carrie has seen that firsthand through the incredible service and commitment the staff demonstrates on a daily basis. For her, it has been an honor to be a part of an organization that adopts this kind of culture and seeks to support and uplift everyone it can.
Carrie is hugely proud of the resiliency of our community and is grateful to have so many opportunities to help make a difference. “We have come out stronger on the other side,” Carrie says. “There are a lot of stories of people bonding together and trying to make things go forward. I think that’s going to be a good building block going forward.” In both her role with Olympia Federal Savings and the Thurston EDC, Carrie has striven to do her part to help keep the community intact. With committed people like her, our community will continue to get the necessary support it needs to get through even the toughest challenges.