John M. Garrett
27, Vice President, Commercial Lender at TowneBank, Norfolk
Business community involvement:
Hampton Roads Chamber—Norfolk Economic Development Committee, Downtown Norfolk Council DT100, TowneBank Leadership Alliance, Association of Financial Professionals, Virginia Bankers Association, tHRive
Something that makes you stand out in your industry?
I genuinely love having the opportunity to work with local businesses in our community daily. Whether it’s a young startup in a high growth phase or a mature company that’s been family owned for generations, I love supporting their diverse array of banking needs. I’m pretty personable, and I strive to ensure that I’m always available, knowledgeable, straightforward and willing to go the extra mile. Whether it’s financing a multimillion-dollar project or simply opening a checking account, I’m here to help.
Something or someone who keeps you motivated?
The TowneBank members we work with every day certainly keep me motivated. I strive to do everything I can to provide value in helping them achieve their goals. I love being a small part of their relentless work ethics, entrepreneurial spirit, passion and ultimate success. Additionally, my colleagues keep me motivated. We have a great team. The friendships, mentorship and comradery in the office pushes me every day. Outside of that, I love listening to a few weekly podcasts like Masters in Business with Barry Ritholtz and How I Built This with Guy Raz. I find both podcasts fascinating as they interview leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs, idealists and the stories behind the movements they built.
What’s a challenge you’ve had to overcome to find success?
The biggest challenge of my life was my four years at Virginia Military Institute. It pushed me physically and mentally further than I thought possible. Balancing the rigorous academics, commitments as an NCAA D1 athlete and regimented military lifestyle taught me effective leadership skills, discipline and how to be a decisive time manager. What I learned was tremendously applicable to my professional life, and I owe my college experience for much of my success today.
Most important aspect you look for in a workplace?
Workplace culture is especially important. I’ve been fortunate to work in a great culture at Towne, which I believe sets a great example. It’s a motivating, pro-learning, supportive and encouraging workplace, and it’s an environment that instills trust and empowerment in their employees. I love that I have the ability to be rewarded for hard work and the opportunity to pursue civic and nonprofit passions outside of the office.
What would you be doing if you weren’t in your current position?
As treasurer of the Elizabeth River Trail Foundation, I’ve been fortunate to work with a fantastic group of leaders from every corner of the community. We mostly work on planning and design projects to enhance the urban trail system in an effort to create a world class amenity for Norfolk. I’m nowhere near creative enough for it, but if could do something else, I’d love to do something in urban planning and design.
What new idea or development are you most excited about in Coastal Virginia right now?
I’m most excited about light rail expansion. The referendum vote that took place recently was certainly a setback—there will be more road bumps, and we’ll face many tough decisions in the years to come, but I’m excited about its potential. If the Southside community has the opportunity to hop on rail and go to the Naval Base, airport, Downtown Norfolk, catch a Tides game, hit a show in Town Center, check out the awesome new urban developments coming in Chesapeake, experience Olde Town Portsmouth and even get to the new arena wherever it ends up, that’s something to rally around. I’ve traveled around the world to cities that have embraced light rail. It works. Imagine four urban hubs: Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth and Chesapeake all connected with a light rail system—the benefits will justify the investment and help anchor the region as a desirable, economically powerful and prosperous place to live, work and play.
What do you think is Coastal Virginia’s biggest challenge?
The same challenge Coastal Virginia’s had for decades—regional collaboration. It will never be perfect, but the lack of regional cooperation when it comes to transportation, development or a competition for “who does it better” has plagued Coastal Virginia for decades. However, I truly feel it is getting better. Several regional leaders are taking it head on. I believe more will follow and the regional teamwork will continue to improve.
Favorite place in Coastal Virginia to go on the weekends?
Our immaculate beaches, river networks and beautiful bays offer so many different access points to the water. Whether it’s jumping on the boat with friends, taking the ferry to Portsmouth for a concert or relaxing on the North End beach, the weekends are full of great options. If I absolutely had to pick one place though, I’d have to pick a bike ride along the Elizabeth River Trail with friends, stopping at several of the breweries along the way to stay hydrated.
From his nomination:
“John continually demonstrates an excellent work ethic and a natural ability to connect and build relationships with coworkers and members. He exemplifies outstanding leadership qualities in his work and in the community. He interacts effortlessly with teammates, members, prospects and community leaders.”
—John Baiocco, manager