Merchants and Farmers names Leach Chairman Emeritus, Hughes selected as next Chairman of the Board.
LEESVILLE, LA -- The board of directors at Merchants & Farmers Bank has announced that chairman of the board and long-time board member Claude "Buddy" Leach has become Chairman Emeritus and will remain as an active member of the board.
Leach has served on the independent community bank’s board for nearly five decades and has played an integral role in its success. "I am tremendously proud of the stability and growth of this financial institution and I look forward to its continued impact as an early adopter of banking technology," commented Leach. In the 47 years that Leach has served Merchants & Farmers, the Leesville-based, 93-year-old institution has grown from $18 million to more than $470 million and expanded to eight locations throughout western and southwestern Louisiana.
The board has named CEO and President Ken Hughes, a 40-year veteran of the bank and 25-year board member, as the new Chairman of the Board. Hughes will continue as CEO and President of the bank.
Thirty-year board member David Williams has been selected as Vice Chairman of the board. Williams attended Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, Texas and is employee, partner, owner and investor in various business and agricultural enterprises in Louisiana and Texas. Hughes has served as CEO and president of Merchants & Farmers since 2002 and during that time led the bank's strategic development, introducing technology that has included mobile and online banking services, digital wallets, multi-function debit and credit cards, and remote deposit. "I am pleased to represent a bank that has played a vital role in our community through reinvestment with the purchase of bonds as well as commercial and consumer lending. We take our responsibilities very seriously as evidenced by our team during the coronavirus pandemic and back-to-back hurricanes," said Hughes.
As vice president in the early 1990s Hughes directed the development of the bank's website, one of the first by a Louisiana financial institution. He began with the bank as a summer employee in the 1970s working in the bookkeeping department, and he served in virtually every sector over the course of his career. A Leesville native, Hughes is a member of the Louisiana Bankers Association and is a graduate of the Louisiana State University Graduate School of Banking and McNeese State University where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business education.
Leach served in the Louisiana State legislature representing Vernon Parish for 16 years and has served on the boards of the Calcasieu/Cameron Rice Production Association, the Calcasieu Farm Bureau, the Calcasieu Parish and Louisiana Cattlemen's Associations, the Nature Conservancy, the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, the McNeese University President's Inner Circle Advisory Committee, and is a past district governor of Lions International.
While serving in the U.S. Congress, Leach was appointed to the House Armed Forces Committee. It was on this Committee that the Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital was brought to the attention of the Surgeon General and the following year it was in the budget for the Surgeon General. This facility has greatly enhanced the opportunity to help all of our active duty and retired military personnel. In 2018, Leach was appointed by Governor John Bel Edwards to serve on the Early Childhood Care and Education Commission.
In operation since 1928, Merchants & Farmers Bank is an independent community bank headquartered in Leesville, Louisiana with eight full-service locations in six cities. Among the first of Louisiana banks to establish online banking, Merchants & Farmers offers a variety of banking products and services throughout the western and southwestern areas of the state.