Scott Bauer: Community servant

by Jim Longworth

Scott Bauer has been at the helm of Southern Community Bank since its founding in 1996. Bauer, who grew up in Winston-Salem, has never forgotten his local roots, and, as journalist Richard Craver put it, “never let his position get in the way of opening an account for a new customer.”

Scott is a community-minded man and the perfect person to run a community bank, which he has done expertly. It was Bauer who piloted Southern Community Bank through recessionary storms. It was Bauer who kept the bank profitable while paying back TARP funds. It was Bauer  who successfully orchestrated a generous offer from Capital Bank. And it was Bauer who voluntarily took a substantial pay cut for three straight years just so he could avoid laying off employees.

Last week, Southern Community’s board rewarded Bauer for his many successes and selfless dedication. They fired him. Even worse, by firing him prior to closing on the Capital deal (which will be voted on Sept. 19), the board screwed Scott out of a $700,000 in golden parachute. UNC-Charlotte finance professor Tony Plath called it a “slap in the face… especially considering how hard Scott worked… to save this little bank, and work out a good deal for shareholders.”

Bauer’s firing wasn’t just unethical, it wasn’t good business, because the board got rid of the one man who kept business good. Just days after the dismissal, CFO Jim Hastings announced, “The bank is at a point now where it is consistently earning a profit and effectively managing its risks. It’s taken a lot of hard work to turn our organization around.” He’s right, and Bauer’s the one who turned it around, so Hastings is actually bragging on the man he just fired.

Bauer was successful because he cared about every employee and every customer. I’ve been in restaurants with Scott when the owner would come up and say, “Thanks for all you’ve done for us Mr. Bauer.” And I’ve had a ringside seat for seeing how Scott helped the less fortunate in our area. For the past six years, Southern Community Bank has been a sponsor of my “Triad Today” television program. It was Scott’s decision from Day 1 to devote his sponsored segments to helping nonprofit organizations lend a hand to those in need. Last year alone, Scott made significant donations to more than 300 community organizations, while “Triad Today” has served as a forum for everything from helping families gain access to cancer services, to helping abuse victims find shelter. During that time, I have received hundreds of letters from people thanking Bauer and Southern Community Bank for their help. Here’s a sampling of comments from grateful community organizations:

“Thank you for letting us be on your program to promote our art show fundraiser for Meals on Wheels. We had a 27% increase over last year, and raised $47,000!” — Senior Services “Without the support of Southern Community Bank, we would not be able to reach so many people to tell of our mission.”— Mtn. Valley Hospice & Palliative Care “Southern Community Bank provided an opportunity for viewers to hear about the 111,000 citizens waiting for organ transplants…including 3,500 North Carolinians. Since the segment aired, we have seen an increase in people wanting to receive more information about donating organs. ..It’s incredible.” — Carolina Donor Services “By having a great venue like ‘Triad Today’ and the support of Southern Community Bank, we are helping to make our community a better place to live.” — American Red Cross, Northwest NC Chapter “It’s great to know that even in challenging times, there are folks in our community who are passionate about helping people. Thanks, Southern Community Bank.” — Family Services While Bauer isn’t speaking publicly about his dismissal, I did manage to coax a statement from him about community service. He said, “When the bank was started, one of the underlying values was to give back to the communities we serve. That became a part of who we are…. We worked to make a difference.”

And what a difference Scott Bauer has made in the lives of countless thousands of Triad citizens. On Sept. 19, the shareholders of Southern Community Bank and Capital Bank would do well to remember that people bank with people, and no one has been a better friend to the people than Scott Bauer.

JIM LONGWORTH is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. on ABC45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 11am on WMYV (cable channel 15).