Alpine Bank’s Kris Gardner, who opened doors for women, is retiring
Post Independent Correspondent
Glenwood Springs native and Alpine Bank Chief Administration Officer Kris Gardner will soon retire after working for the local institution since 1974, when she was hired at the original Carbondale branch as a teller.
“I was interviewed by [Alpine Bank founder] Bob Young personally, he hired me — and I didn’t know it then, but that was the beginning of a wonderful career for me,” Gardner said of her early days with the bank. “I was young, and it was just an entry-level position, and some of the others who helped interview me thought I’d probably leave. But I outstayed all of them.”
Gardner would spend the next four decades rising from teller to senior management, climbing the professional ladder and undertaking major projects to help lead the company to where it is today.
A true Roaring Fork Valley local, Gardner’s roots run deep in this area. She was born in Glenwood Springs and raised on a ranch property at Cattle Creek and Highway 82, and later attended high school in Carbondale. Her father’s side of the family had been living in the valley for generations, having moved here in the 19th century for farming and mining, and one of her great-grandfathers was part of the original group that founded Carbondale’s Potato Day in 1909. Her mother’s family members were also long-established in the area, including one in particular by the name of Jimmy Sayre, who eventually donated the land for what is now Sayre Park in Glenwood.
After building an impressive career with one of the Western Slope’s most respected companies, it seems that Gardner has continued her family’s tradition of important contributions to the community. But back in the early 1970s, when she was a young college grad, she wasn’t so convinced that this was the place where she really wanted to be.
“After I graduated from college in Fort Collins, I thought I didn’t want to come back and work around here because I didn’t believe there was much opportunity,” Gardner said. “So I went to Denver for about two years, but then decided maybe I did want to live here. I sent letters and applications to four or five institutions around town, and immediately received a response from Bob Young.”
And the rest, they say, is history. Soon after Gardner was hired, her career progressed quickly; she served in a variety of roles before being promoted to vice president and within just a few short years, she was leading the teams that opened the Glenwood Springs and West Glenwood branches in the early 1980s.
“I was in on the planning for these new branches from day one,” she remembered. “I organized, got the ground, built the building, worked with the contractor, hired the people — handled pretty much anything that needed to be done. It was a very exciting time.”
By 1985, Gardner had been made a director of Alpine Bank and senior vice president of the holding company. In a time when upper management was predominantly filled with male executives, she rose into her leadership role as the lone female on the team. Gardner hopes that the path she carved so many years ago has benefited other women in the company as they forge careers in the world of banking.
“Banking management in those days was male-dominated, whereas clerical work at the staff level was female-dominated,” she recalled. “One thing that stands out to me more than anything is that my success with Alpine Bank was not gender-related. My success came because of what I did — not who I was. I was the only woman on the upper management team for many years, but I was treated equally and had the respect of everyone around. This I believe helped open doors for other women in the organization, or at least I hope it did. That was definitely a highlight for me.”
Gardner celebrated her retirement with an open house and dinner in Glenwood earlier this year, and has since been working part-time to transition away from her current role. After taking some time off, she plans to remain active on the bank’s board of directors.
“This will be the best of both worlds,” she said. “I don’t have to come into work every day, but I can still maintain a connection with my Alpine Bank family.”
As she looks to the future and envisions where Alpine Bank is headed in the coming years, Gardner believes the company will continue to grow and operate in good hands.
“I really see us continuing to expand in the Denver market,” she noted. “Of course, we will never change from being your local community bank. We’ll get bigger but we’ll still be the bank down the street. It’s really the perfect time for me to be leaving because the management team is so strong. They won’t miss a beat without me; really, there is nowhere for them to go but up.”
Reflecting on her profession of more than 40 years, Gardner added, “My work has been an extremely important part of my life for many years. I surprised some people with my retirement announcement because they thought I’d be there forever. This career has meant the world to me, and I can’t be more thankful for the opportunities I was given.”
Gardner’s last day in the office is April 30.