After decades of banking, Jessica Kilkenny leaves with a legacy of trust

Jessica Kilkenny may be retired, but she wants her customers to know they can always reach her.
Jessica Kilkenny on one of her last days in her office at First Northern Bank. Photo by Emma Johnson.

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During Jessica Kilkenny’s 43 year career at a community bank, working as a loan officer has involved a lot more than crunching numbers, assessing risks and approving applications. Working at the Winters Branch of First Northern Bank meant getting involved in local groups, giving customers rides on hot days and on one occasion, resurrecting someone from the dead (while breaking a federal law in the process).

No, Kilkenny wasn’t performing a miracle. After an employee in operations accidentally marked a living woman deceased on documents sent to the Social Security Administration, the customer stopped receiving her checks. Kilkenny had to find a way to fix it.

Could Kilkenny call and explain the mistake? No. Could she send an official letter from the bank explaining that it was their mistake? No. The woman would have to travel to the Social Security Office in person to prove she did in fact, have a pulse.

Knowing that the elderly woman no longer drove, Kilkenny offered to take her. The pair set off for West Sacramento, with plans of lunch and a shopping trip after their appointment.

Everything went well with Social Security, but they returned to Kilkenny’s car to find themselves blocked in by an empty ambulance. It was a hot day, and seeing no paramedics in sight, Kilkenny decided to solve the problem herself. The ambulance’s keys were still in the ignition after all.

As soon as she started driving it the alarms blared. She moved it just far enough for them to escape and hopped out.

“Well we laughed about that all day,” Kilkenny says.

It wasn’t until several days later that she learned those few feet constituted the federal offense of stealing an ambulance. Kilkenny says the customer told that story for years.

Kilkenny came to the Winters branch 34 years ago after nearly a decade at the Dixon branch.

“When I was transferred over here I was nervous, because I didn’t know anybody in Winters,” Kilkenny says. She and her husband Dennis Kilkenny were still living in Dixon at the time.

Her worries dissipated as she joined local organizations like Soroptimist International Winters and the Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s such a wonderful community and everybody welcomed me with open arms,” Kilkenny says.

She got so involved with Winters clubs that Dennis got tired of never seeing her in the evenings.

“He called me one day and said ‘I bought a piece of property in Winters, we’re going to build a house,’” she says. After they moved to Winters she could come home and see him between work and her club meetings.

Now that she’s retiring she’s looking forward to spending more time with Dennis. When Dennis suffered a health event last year Kilkenny says it was a wake up call that the two of them were getting older.

“Mentally I think I’m 36,” she says. “The reality is I’m not.”

When Kilkenny announced her retirement she was met with shock and concern from her clients that she would be leaving them so soon.

“It’s like losing a doctor or something,” Kilkenny says. She had spent decades fostering trust with them while working on private financial matters.

Some of that trust came from her visibility in the community. When Kilkenny joined those local organizations she knew it was important for people to know she was invested in the town, not just the job.

The bank also supported her efforts. When the Rotary Club was opened to women in the late 80s, the bank encouraged her to join. Kilkenny is still a member of Rotary, and runs the biennial Wine and Food Gala.

Along with Rotary she served as president for the Chamber of Commerce three years in a row, was a part of Yolo Land Trust and won Citizen of the Year and the Theodore Winters Award.

“Every award that Winters had to offer, she won,” Dennis says.

Her good standing in the community paid off not only in community recognition, but in business.

When Kilkenny first joined the Winters branch their main competition was Bank of America, who Kilkenny says had all the market share. Kilkenny believes that one of their issues was the high rate of turnover in employees.

“Customers like to see stability,” Kilkenny says. She stayed and fostered trust within the community. She went on to hire many of the supervisors who are still working at the bank today. Now the bank has become the training center for new employees at other branches.

“That’s quite a compliment to our branch,” Kilkenny says.

One of the most difficult hires that she has had to make may have been her replacement.

Six months ago when Kilkenny told the bank she would be retiring, they let her know they really didn’t want her to leave. She agreed to stay on part-time as a customer relations officer.

That settled, they needed to find someone who could take over the relationships she had built over the last several decades. Her customers were concerned be taking her place. The new loan officer would need to know the community, inspire trust and be able to keep their customers’ personal information “top secret.”

When Kilkenny explained this to her replacement, he remarked that working for the bank sounded a little like working for the C.I.A. You don’t share anything that you learn in the bank, and don’t even acknowledge that you bank with someone if you see them in public. She told him he wasn’t wrong.

After interviewing candidates from across the western United States, First Northern Bank found their new loan officer in Winters resident Jack Vickrey.

“Jack has a very impressive resume,” Kilkenny says. Kilkenny says his agriculture background and his connection to the community will help him and the job.

When she shared the name of the new hire with her customers, they seemed relieved.

“All of a sudden the knots in my stomach went away,” Kilkenny says. “It’s very important for me to know that my customers are going to be taken care of the way that I like to have them taken care of.”

Now Kilkenny is ready to head into retirement without worry. She is looking forward to spending more time with Dennis and her mother. She and Dennis have plans to travel more.

“Wherever she wants to go in the world I’ll take her,” Dennis says.

Still it is hard for Kilkenny to step away from the role she held at the bank for so many years.

“I started when I was so young,” she says. “It feels like this is just a part of my life and I feel like First Northern Bank is my own company.”

She wants her customers to know that they can still get in touch with her by calling the bank and leaving a message or emailing her at


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