From Quarterback to Quarters
BY CARA RANK
People in a small town don’t forget much. For example, Pete Lawton’s name will forever be attached to quarterbacking for a state championship football team in 1981, throwing the winning pass for Jackson Hole High School.
Lawton likes this small-town vibe, and it’s a major reason the forty-eight-year-old moved from Jackson Market President for Wells Fargo to CEO of Bank of Jackson Hole one year ago. “I like the small community model,” he says.
Lawton traces his roots in the valley to his grandfather, who moved here in 1938 to work as one of two doctors in town. Though Lawton was born in Cody, his family moved back to Jackson when he was two. He spent four years at the University of Wyoming and another three working for Key Bank in Laramie before returning home to raise his two sons and work for Jackson State Bank & Trust.
Q: When you were in high school, did you think you would go into banking?
A: No. I was a petroleum engineering major in college for three years at the University of Wyoming. There was a recession then, and people were going back to school to get MBAs. There were no jobs, so I changed majors and got a business degree. Then I got hired by a bank and worked in Laramie.
Q: If you weren’t a banker, what would you be doing now?
A: They didn’t offer marine biology at the University of Wyoming. I’ve been in the mountains my whole life; I’d love to spend more time at the ocean. I do get to the Caribbean to go spear fishing, which I really enjoy.
Q: How do you spend your time when you’re not working or volunteering?
A: I grew up ski racing, and I still love to ski. In college, I worked as a whitewater river guide, so I still spend a lot of time on the river, mostly fishing. I keep skis in the car during the winter and a fly rod in summer.
Q: Why make the switch from Wells Fargo to Bank of Jackson Hole?
A: I wanted to switch to a smaller company. That’s more my style. Wells is a great model and a very successful bank. But I like working for a smaller community bank. I like that decisions are made locally, that you know your community and your customers.
Q: What’s your perception of the Jackson Hole economy?
A: We’ve had a pretty strong winter, and summers have bounced back in the last couple of years. In the real estate market, certain segments are doing OK. We’re starting to decrease inventory levels. The economy seems to be stabilizing. But you know, a lot of the money spent here is discretionary. And that means we’re late going into downturns and we’re usually late coming out. With no state income tax and our parks, forests, ski areas, and music festival, we’re going to continue to attract people. Jackson will continue to thrive; it’s just not going to happen at the level it was in 2007.