Kristen BRABBLE.

Author:Mildenberg, David



Like many young professionals, Rocky Mount banker Kristen Brabble wasn't excited when members of the town's Rotary Club invited her to join. Her vision was "a bunch of old fogies walking in with canes to listen to boring speeches." She joined anyway, quickly learned her image was inaccurate, and started planning a distinctive community event sponsored by the service group. In its fourth year, Tackle the Tar 5K race attracted 850 runners and walkers in May to compete through a muddy obstacle course that leaves participants tired, filthy and proud. This year's benefit raised $114,000, with proceeds after expenses split for scholarships at Nash and Edgecombe community colleges and N.C. Wesleyan University.

Brabble has shown similar energy at First Carolina Bank, the Rocky Mount-based institution that had more local deposits than its rivals as of June 2018. While noting that every bank offers important services, she doesn't mince words. "If you want to call a bank where a local person answers the phone, call us. If you don't care and like to be treated like crap, go to the big banks."

That feistiness has served Brabble as she's risen quickly at the bank. While earning an associate degree at Pitt Community College and an online bachelor's degree from Arizona State University, Brabble worked full time for local banks. In 2012, while working at First Carolina Bank in Greenville, she was itching for a new challenge, probably outside the industry.

But veteran N.C. banker Ron Day urged Brabble, then 21, to sit tight while he and an investor group acquired First Carolina from an out-of-state company that was failing because of soured recession-era loans. Day's group has since built a $556 million institution with branches in Rocky Mount, Raleigh and Reidsville and lending offices in Wilmington and Virginia Beach, Va.

Brabble, who moved to Rocky Mount at Day's invitation, has been instrumental in that growth. Starting as an intern working on branding the bank, Brabble's role has steadily increased. In August, she was named chief operating officer with responsibilities in human resources, shareholder relations, marketing, information...

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