Putting a lid on a community-minded career

Even in today’s modern society with smartphones, electronic debit cards, online payments, and the like, many people still collect loose change in jars. The coins build up until you cash them in for paper money. It makes sense, then, that Dave Eifler – the soon-to-be-former Market President for Horizon Bank – is a jar collector. In fact, he has a collection of jars that would make the Smithsonian Institution jealous. Now that he’s preparing for retirement, Eifler will have a lot more time to focus on that lucrative pastime.

After more than four decades in banking, Eifler has announced he is retiring from his position as the President of Southwest Michigan and North Central Indiana for Horizon Bank. Appointed to the role when Eifler steps down is Bruce Piekarski who currently serves as Vice President, Commercial Group Manager for Horizon. The transition is already underway and will be complete in early July.

A Banker’s Background

Dave Eifler is a product of Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. He went to school at Albion College and earned his MBA from Central Michigan University. He’s called Southwest Michigan home for more than 40 years and has spent his entire career in banking.

A recipient of the prestigious Pat Moody Award, Eifler’s commitment to serving the community has been present throughout his career. As noted during the presentation of the 2021 Pat Moody Award, “Dave has been actively involved in a wide variety of community boards and leadership positions, including the Spectrum Health Foundation Board of Directors, Strategic Leadership Council Housing Analysis Committee, and Chairperson of the Board of the Greater Niles Chamber of Commerce. Former leadership roles include Southwest Michigan Economic Growth Alliance, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Berrien & Cass Counties, The Heritage Museum and Cultural Center, Noon Optimist Club of Niles, Optimist International of Michigan, The Bridge Community Arts and Cultural Association, Cornerstone Alliance, and the U.S. Small Business Administration.”

Interesting People You Should Know

Moody on the Market had an opportunity to sit with Eifler and his appointed successor to discuss the role, Dave’s contributions and philosophy, and what customers of Horizon Bank can expect after the leadership change.

MOTM: Talk about your career in banking and your time with Horizon.

Eifler: Well, I’ve spent almost 42 years in banking now, virtually all of it just around here, which has been mostly Berrien, Cass, Van Buren Counties, and the north part of Indiana. I spent a long time at a large bank and I’ve been here the last six and a half years as market president. Now is the time that I’m going to retire from my duties. We’ve elevated Bruce Piekarski to become the new market president.

I’m happy, Bruce is happy, and so too are the customers. That’s the feedback we’re starting to receive. So, it’s time for a different chapter in my life. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Horizon Bank. The bank is doing really, really well — locally and regionally. We just brought it to a new level and I’m sure that Bruce and our really strong team can continue that path. It’s kind of nice to go out on top.

MOTM: What do you attribute your success to?

Eifler: It’s about having a good staff, a good team, a good structure, and a lot of support behind you.

MOTM: Describe your leadership style during your time at Horizon.

Eifler: You start with being a community bank, and that means different things to different people. I think at Horizon Bank, the difference is it allows you a lot of local decision making. I distinctly recall being here a week or two, remember I had come from a much larger bank, and asking if I could do this or couldn’t do that. People laughed at me and they said, “Well you’re the president. What do you want to do?” And it dawned on me. It wasn’t ever in my prior ideas. But that’s really helpful because all communities are different. Some have more retail base; some have more commercial base. You need to be able to adapt. So, Horizon Bank is really good about trying to hire senior people at each of the markets. For And then letting them manage their market as they wish. Of course, there are goals to hit and those kind of things, but it’s really about servicing the needs of the community.

MOTM: You mention community and you’ve been very involved in community service. How do you stress the importance of getting involved locally among your team?

Eifler: The bank encourages people, and I really encourage people to become involved in community groups, nonprofits, and just all the things of the community that make the community whole. If we didn’t have all that involvement, we’d have nothing. When you do that, you learn about what really makes the community tick. What are the needs in the community if you’re at the Krasl or at the Heritage Museum, or wherever you are. You learn about specific pockets of needs and requests.
And being a banker, you can provide some insight and help. More the point, you can match up needs and uses. If you know the needs here, and there’s a resource there, you can match them up. So you spend a lot of time doing just that with connecting people. And the more groups you’re in, the more things you hear about.

Whether you’re on the hospital foundation board or whatever, there are things happening out there and challenges. And so our officers are strongly encouraged to become involved in whatever communities they live in, in whatever is close to their heart. The other aspect of that too is when we make loan decisions, we’re making them based on the fact we know the community. So if we have a business who needs a loan, we know it affects people that we may live next door to.

MOTM: What’s next for you?

Eifler: I’m a pretty busy guy. I’m going to slow down some aspects of my life and speed up others. But I’m going to thoroughly enjoy fishing and retiring. It’s been a long time. I’ve got a lot of things I want to and none of it has anything to do with banking.

I’m a voracious antique collector. I’ve actually written a book that’s been met with tremendous success. I’ve got to continue more of that, so I’m going to travel the country to do more of those things. But that specifically has to do with antique fruit jars that all my friends know I talk about too much already, but I really like that.

MOTM: Remaining thoughts or last bits of advice for those who will follow in your banking footsteps?

Eifler: It’s just been fun. I come back to the community service part. I wish and I hope that there are more and more people in the community that feel that way. Whatever enterprise they’re in, because that’s what really makes a town a town. There’s a lot of us that believe strongly in that. I’m hoping the next generation will pick up the baton and go forward. It’s just an honor and privilege to be able to be in that position. And that’s just kind of how I feel.

What to Expect From the Next Leader

MOTM: Question for you Bruce, when you take the reins this summer, what can people expect from you?

Piekarski: I’ve been with Horizon for a while – 23-plus years. I started with the bank early in my career and then left for other banking opportunities as well one outside of banking. My experience has led me to see a whole lot of different things — especially on the outside of the banking side. Probably the biggest takeaway I had from that experience, which I profess here with the commercial loan people will with everybody in our marketplace, is, “You win, I win.” That’s the bottom line. Any way that I can assist any employee, no matter what their level or their responsibility, if I’m helping them win, then at the end of the day, I win, and then we win as an organization. That’s probably the biggest expectation.

I also firmly believe that the team I’ve got in place now in the commercial lending side will assist greatly and pass that message along when people say, “Hey, who’s this Bruce guy?” That’s probably the biggest thing. Otherwise, no big changes. We’ve got a well-oiled machine and an excellent organization behind us.

MOTM: So, no big changes?

Piekarski: No, it will be smooth. I’ve been here a long time and I’ve been in this community for nine years now. It’ll be seamless. Absolutely, totally seamless. There are no organizational changes. There’s no changes in personnel. Everybody will continue to go about and do what they do well on a regular basis.

Further Reading
The transition for Eifler’s retirement is already underway and Dave’s final day in the office is in early July. Eifler’s book that he authored, Red Book of Fruit JarsA Collectors Guide to Antique Fruit Jars, is an identification and price guide for collectible fruit jars. He currently spends some of his non-work time touring the country promoting his book and searching for unique and pre-1800 antiques of historical significance primarily to Southwest Michigan.


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