Messerschmidt takes pride in serving his city
First Bank’s president named West Des Moines Citizen of the Year
In the office of Rick Messerschmidt, president and chief executive officer of First Bank and West Des Moines’ Citizen of the Year, the walls are covered with plaques noting awards and achievements (including a key to the city of West Des Moines), and the floor is littered with papers.
“Papers on the floor – a really sophisticated filing system, here,” Messerschmidt said.
Messerschmidt has been with the West Des Moines bank since 1980, and prior to his current post,served as a loan officer and vice president.
“Actually, my family owns the bank and has since the mid-1930s,” he said. “My grandfather bought it.”
First Bank was established in 1901 as the First National Bank of Valley Junction. Since then the bank has gone from a national to a state charter, and the city and bank both changed their names. The bank’s presidency has been filled by Messerchmidt’s grandfather, father, and now him.
“My goal for the future is to keep our family-owned bank growing and an important part of our community,” Messerschmidt said. He doesn’t hold out much hope for his sons to take the reins, however.
“I have a daughter-in-law who’s a teller with the bank, but my sons are computer geeks,” he said. His oldest son, Tony, is a network administrator for Automatic Data Processing Inc, and his youngest son, Dan, recently left the Marine Corps. It’s Dan’s wife, Emily, who works for the bank.
Messerschmidt praises his children and his wife, Anita, for being understanding about the time he gives to his job and the community.
“Anita probably deserves to be Citizen of the Year as much as I do, for putting up with me.”
Messerschmidt says community involvement sometimes gave his family the chance to work together to help others. For example, in 1993, the whole family spent hours filling sandbags at Valley Stadium to protect the West Des Moines Waterworks.
Messerschmidt has supported his community by backing referendums for West Des Moines’ City Hall, police and fire stations and school improvement. The list of organizations he has served over the years is long. He currently serves as chairman of the West Des Moines Schools Foundation and sits on the boards of the American Heart Association, the West Des Moines Development Corp. (of which he was once president) and the Bennett School, a historic one-room schoolhouse.
“I was on the board of the West Des Moines Historical Society, and they asked if I would be interested in the project,” Messerschmidt said. “They needed to move the Bennett School at 50th and George Mills Parkway.” He said Dale Grabinski was the project’s chief, but he helped find the money and support necessary to relocate the structure to Fuller Street, east of Jordan Creek Elementary School. Just a few weeks ago, Messerschmidt made a presentation to first-graders in the schoolhouse, teaching them what a one-room school was like.
“It’s fun to tell them about things they’ve never thought of,” he said.
That kind of contribution is what convinced the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce that Messerschmidt was the right recipient for the Citizen of the Year award and the key to the city, which were presented at a dinner Jan. 29.
“He’s a very deserving recipient,” said Linda Jenkins of the chamber. “In the city, the schools, the chamber — pretty much all aspects of community service he’s got covered.”
Messerschmidt, whose father, Roy, received the same award in 1993, says this is just the beginning and he plans to continue his high level of community involvement.
“It’s something I enjoy,” he said. “It’s a way I can give something back to the community that raised me. West Des Moines is a great community. We’ve been blessed through the years to have great leaders and people who care enough to help our community grow and improve.”