Arkansas Lawmaker Becomes CEO of Southern Bancorp

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Southern Bancorp in Arkadelphia, Ark., has hired a sitting state legislator to become its chief executive.

The $1.1 billion-asset company said in a press release Wednesday that Darrin Williams will become its CEO on Feb. 1.  John Olaimey, president and CEO of Southern Bancorp Bank, will report to Williams.

Williams, who was already on the company's board, will focus on the overall strategic direction but will not manage the bank's day-to-day operations, says Dominik Mjartan, the company's senior vice president.

Williams is a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives and a principal at Carney Williams Bates Pulliam & Bowman, where he focuses on consumer-protection issues. He will work part-time at Southern Bancorp through the end of the upcoming legislative session, which is set to convene on Jan. 14. He will take over the role full time when the session ends, a company spokeswoman says.

"My career focus of protecting consumers from the abuses of Wall Street banks has prepared me well to show how banking should and can be done to help communities and people," Williams said in a release. "I don't know of a better bank to make that point than Southern."

Tanya Wright, the chief executive of the company's affiliated community development loan fund, will also report to Williams. The fund has a loan portfolio of around $16 million, Mjartan says.

Williams has an extensive resume in state and local government. He worked in community outreach for the Democratic National Committee in the 1990s before returning to Arkansas to become chief-of-staff to former state Attorney General Mark Pryor. He has also worked for the Securities and Exchange Committee.

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