If Keith Dameron hadn’t been frustrated in his attempt to start a second career renting Wave Runners, Marco Island would never have had the In the Round series.
Eleven years ago, Dameron and his wife Barbara moved to Marco Island to retire. He had spent 33 years in the insurance business with MassMutual, rising to manage operations in 33 states, and moving to a new city every five years.
One year of inactivity was all Keith could take before he felt the need to do something to stay busy.
“I applied for a part time job renting Wave Runners, but the company owner wouldn’t approve it,” said Dameron. “He said ‘you won’t stay – this won’t be enough to keep you satisfied.’ I was so mad.”
And that’s how the vice president and branch manager of the Iberia Bank on Marco Island first got into banking.
“A guy I knew suggested I come to work in his bank. I said I don’t know anything about banking, but I tried it, and started at Citizens Community Bank as a customer service rep. I found out that banking is just like insurance – people give you their money and you give them a piece of paper. Both businesses are built on trust and integrity.”
Citizens Community was acquired by First National Bank, and then Dameron was given the chance to open a new bank branch for Royal Palm Bank on Marco.
Dameron’s mentor at Royal Palm died before the building was complete, and Dameron left to try his hand in real estate with Coldwell-Banker. Then in December ’05, he jumped back into banking, heading up the first Marco Island branch for Orion Bank. Iberia Bank, headquartered in Louisiana, took over when Orion failed.
“I guess I just can’t hold a job,” said Dameron with a laugh.
Under the Orion label, Dameron began the “In the Round” series of community events that put the bank, and him, on the map on Marco. He has now hosted 33 In the Rounds, with topics as varied as health care, utility rates, the Smokehouse Bay Bridge, community redevelopment, and an evening with musician JRobert.
“It was the space we have here that made me think of doing these get-togethers. Most banks on the island don’t have this space. They have little, cut-up offices, but here we have this rotunda,” he said, gesturing up at the lofty ceiling in the bank’s lobby.
The In the Round gatherings have become a “town hall” of sorts, and have made the Iberia Bank branch, on Bald Eagle Drive just south of Collier Blvd., something of a focal point on Marco Island.
“People get a lot out of this,” said Marco Island Citizen of the Year and In the Round regular Debra Sanders, at a recent gathering focused on health care. The open bar, with beer, wine and snacks provided by the bank, certainly don’t hurt attendance.
“How to help out? Have a cocktail hour, and give people a chance to talk,” said Dameron, adding “thus far, it seems to work. This is a community service, not just for bank customers, but for all Marco Islanders,” he said, stressing that that there are no sales pitches during the events. “Nothing is ever sold at an In the Round.”
Even so, the In the Round gatherings have made people aware of the bank, and its wide array of financial services, including an extensive wealth management division, said Dameron.
Iberia Bank will be raising its profile in the community even more when former Florida governor Jeb Bush speaks at the Marriott hotel on Feb. 25 in the inaugural event of the Marco Town Hall series. Iberia is the signature sponsor, and exclusive Marco Island ticket outlet for the talks.
Dameron has taken on a significant load of outside charitable work, but after assessing the balance between work, community and time with Barbara, his wife of 47 years, he is trying to concentrate his efforts.
“I cut down from serving on seven boards to only three,” he said, “the Marco Police Foundation and the Y on the island, and the Bayshore Cultural and Performing Arts Center in Naples.” He joked that Barbara volunteers for the events he is working, “just so we can spend some time together.”
“Keith Dameron is a great community, civic-minded guy,” said Marco’s “president of everything,” long-time local activist Dick Shanahan. “He contributes significantly to everything he does. When Keith commits to something, he finds a way to get it done.”