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First Freedom Announces Promotions

Sarah Poss has been promoted to Director of Retail Banking. Poss previously served as the Assistant Director of Retail Banking and assumes the role from her predecessor, Kenny Beavers, as he transitions into retirement.

“Sarah Poss is an excellent choice to lead our Retail Banking Division,” stated John Lancaster, Chairman and CEO of First Freedom, “She has held every position on the Retail side of the bank and has operational efficiencies, as well. She is immensely qualified and highly regarded among her peers.”

Poss began her career with First Freedom as a Financial Service Representative (FSR) in January of 2015 and advanced rapidly through the retail side of the bank.  She has served as FSR Manager, Training Coordinator, Personal Banker, Providence Office Manager, Virtual Office Manager, and Marketing Manager.  She has also gained a valuable background in bank operations where she is credited with establishing our branch audit program and online account-opening capabilities, in addition to serving as a BSA analyst. 

A graduate of Watertown High School, Poss earned a B.S. in Anthropology from Middle Tennessee State University and has completed additional coursework in Accounting and Economics through Vol State Community College.  She is currently pursuing her MBA through Tennessee Tech University. Professionally, Poss has completed the Tennessee Bankers Association’s Branch Leadership Series and is currently enrolled in their Southeastern School of Banking program.  

Tatum Ortlepp has been promoted to Retail Banking Sales Manager. Ortlepp previously served as the Assistant Office Manager at the bank’s main office. In her new role, she will oversee all things sales and service-related in our delivery system. 

“When it comes to the customer experience, Tatum Ortlepp is the Gold Standard,” stated Lancaster, “Her professionalism and her ability to educate and enhance every customer’s visit is unparalleled. I’m excited to see her in this role.”

Another great example of “Promotion from Within,” Ortlepp joined First Freedom in July of 2018 as a Financial Service Representative (FSR).  She was promoted to Personal Banker (PB) in 2019 and Senior PB in 2022. In January of 2023, she was promoted to Bank Officer and Assistant Office Manager of the Lebanon Office, where she has done an excellent job in continuously improving sales and product knowledge among the staff.  Consistently ranking as a top performer, Ortlepp was voted by her peers as the bank’s Red Carpet Service award winner in 2021. She also maintains additional responsibilities as our Shareholder Services representative.

Ortlepp is a graduate of Wilson Central High School and has completed numerous courses through the Tennessee Bankers Association.

First Freedom Recognizes Employees with the Chairman’s Cup Awards

First Freedom recognized several employees this past quarter for exceptional job performance and for exceeding their individual goals for enhancing and broadening customer relationships. Their outstanding performance earned them the prestigious honor of Chairman’s Cup Member for the quarter.

Congratulations to the following Staff for qualifying for Chairman’s Cup:

Blake Smith, Lebanon FSR Manager

Kasey Johnston, Lebanon FSR

Tori Oakley, FSR / Personal Banker

Miah Lamb, Providence FSR

Kaye Fajardo, Providence FSR

Chrissy Wright, Providence FSR Manager

Kyleigh Heady, Gainesboro FSR

Rebecca Birman, Gainesboro FSR Manager

Shelby Mayberry, Gainesboro FSR

Abby McCann, Cookeville FSR Manager

Kaylie Roberson, Cookeville FSR

Teola Ragland, Algood FSR Manager

Hannah Philpot, Algood FSR

Abby McCann, pictured below with John Lancaster, Chairman and CEO, received additional recognition as the Chairman’s Cup Top Performer for achieving the highest overall performance score among all participants.

Pictured above, back row, left to right is Kenny Beavers, Senior Vice President and Director of Retail Banking, Rebecca, Shelby, Miah, and John and pictured front row, left to right is, Sarah Poss, Vice President and Assistant Director of Retail Banking, Tori, Blake, Kasey, Abby, Kaye, and Kyleigh.

First Freedom’s Laura Johnson Graduates Advanced Banking School

Paul W. Barret, Jr. Graduate School of Banking in Memphis, Tennessee recently announced the graduation of Laura Johnson, Senior Vice President, Information Security Officer and Deposit Operations Manager.

The school was held on the campus of Christian Brothers University in Memphis. Paul W. Barret, Jr. Graduate School of Banking has been providing advanced banking education for fifty-one years, with a curriculum designed to provide a high degree of understanding of all commercial banking functions. During the three-year program, graduates received in excess of 130 hours of instruction and prepared in-depth reports in eight areas of study. There were 246 financial industry professionals from thirty states participating in the 2023 session.

Johnson has twenty-four years of banking experience, compounded by a specialized education revolving around bank automation, money laundering, and information security.  Johnson holds the Accredited ACH Professional certification (AAP) from the National Automatic Clearing House Association (NACHA) and the Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist certification (CAMS) from the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists. She holds a General Banking Diploma and a Bank Operations Diploma from The American Bankers Association.

First Freedom Ranked Top Performing Bank in Tennessee

First Freedom Bank was recently acknowledged as the top performing bank in Tennessee for 2022 by independent firm Financial Management Consulting Group (FMC). FMC utilizes public call report data submitted to the FDIC which is designed to collect financial data in the form of a balance sheet, income statement and supporting schedules. The Report of Condition schedules provide details on assets, liabilities, and capital accounts while the Report of Income schedules provide details on income and expenses. The state of Tennessee had 125 banks in the analysis.

FMC has been analyzing bank performance for 25 years and computes the rankings on a quarterly basis for 42 states. W. Timothy Finn, Principal of FMC, explains his firm utilizes eight key measurements in their analysis and stack ranks all banks in each of the categories. They then average the category rankings to stack rank the banks for overall performance. “It’s quite a task to get the top spot in overall performance,” said Finn, “First Freedom is to be commended for this significant accomplishment.”

John Lancaster, Chairman and CEO of First Freedom, stated, “We are honored to be recognized by FMC in this way. We have followed their analytical work for years and appreciate the transparency in their approach. These results are a testament to our thriving communities, our focused board, and our dedicated employees.”

 First Freedom Bank, headquartered in Wilson County, was established in 2006. A full service, community bank, First Freedom Bank offers personal and commercial banking services from six locations in Wilson, Putnam and Jackson Counties, and has approximately 70 employees. First Freedom Bank has assets in excess of $600 million and is owned by approximately 1,000 shareholders throughout Middle Tennessee. First Freedom Bank is a member of the Better Business Bureau, an Equal Housing Lender, and Member FDIC. Additionally, First Freedom has earned the prestigious Five Star rating by Bauer Financial, the nation’s leading independent bank and credit union rating firm.