President and CEO, First United Bank and Trust Co.

When the chief executive job at First United Bank and Trust opened up in 2010, Karen Glenn, then the Kentucky bank's chief financial officer, didn't bother to apply.

As a single mom to twin boys — one with autism, the other recovering from cancer treatments — Glenn felt she had as much responsibility as she could handle. Plus she lived nearly an hour away from the bank's Madisonville headquarters and the job required the CEO to live and work in the community. "I didn't think the board would hire a blond, 38-year-old female from another community to run their company," Glenn said.

Then, in the midst of a nationwide search for a CEO, a board member encouraged Glenn to apply. She agreed and in a one-hour interview before the full (all-male) board, Glenn laid out her plan for how she would run the bank and improve its performance. Among her ideas: streamline management and shutter the unprofitable brokerage unit.

She was offered the job the next day. "I was speechless," Glenn said.

Glenn took over as president and CEO in July 2010. As CFO, Glenn hadn't been very visible, so one of her first priorities was introducing herself to the community and to customers. She moved the family to Madisonville, joined the local Rotary Club and chamber of commerce and became active in area nonprofits. Through a partnership she created between the bank and the city, Glenn became the driving force behind the construction of a new events plaza downtown. "I went from a back-office-type job to being the face of the bank," she said.

Her challenge was figuring out how to expand the bank in a slow-growing community. At first, Glenn focused on managing expenses and lowering the bank's cost of funds, and her efforts there are big reasons First United enjoyed record profits last year and kept its net interest margin above 4%.

But cost-cutting can only take the bank so far, so last year Glenn made her boldest move to date with a deal to acquire the $85 million-asset Bank of Ohio County in Beaver Dam, Ky. With that deal, the first in its 20-year history, First United boosted its assets by nearly 45%, to $275 million.

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