Signaling its intention to continue growing in Florida, Stearns Bank in St. Cloud, Minn., has named veteran banker Tramm Hudson as the president of its Florida operation.

The Tampa Bay Business Journal reported Monday in its online edition that the $1.2 billion-asset bank considered up to 20 candidates before naming Hudson to the newly created post. Hudson was most recently a regional president in Florida for Whitney Holding Group of New Orleans, which was sold last week to Hancock Holding Co. of Gulfport, Miss.

Stearns entered Florida two years ago when it bought a pair of failed banks in Sarasota County. Stearns' chief executive, Norm Skalicky, told the Tampa Bay Business Journal that the bank plans to keep bulking up in the state by adding branches and perhaps buying more failed banks.

"We consider Florida one of the best markets in the nation," Skalicky said.

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