Humanitarian, Financial Wizard, Philanthropist, Manatee. First State Bank of the Florida Keys’ “Moolah the Manatee” is a sea cow of many titles. Born “under unusual circumstances” in a canal behind the bank’s Summerland Office, Moolah became part of the FSB family when she was officially adopted in 1955. With a keen eye for finances and a heart “two times too big” Moolah earned an MBA from the University of Florida and then spent two years rebuilding Ghana villages as part of President Kennedy’s newly formed Peace Corps. By the mid 80s, the tug of heartstrings was too much and Moolah returned to the family business as the “Official SpokesCow” for First State Bank. With her friendly nature, actress-like presence, lovable rubenesque shape, big blue eyes and batting eyelashes, Moolah can thrill youngsters on the merits of saving and spreads cheer as a constant presence at civic events, fundraisers, hospitals and seniors centers. The Weekly recently caught up with Moolah who opened up about banking, the Vandenberg, and FSB Loan Officer Kurt Lewin.
TW: How did you acquire the name “Moolah?”
MM: In the late 80’s, I became the face of the Bank’s extensive network of Keyswide ATMs as First State’s “Cash Cow”TM and ultimately earned the nickname Moolah. At first I didn’t really dig the name, but the kids absolutely loved it…I guess you can say the name has “paid off.” (Moolah chuckles)
TW: First State Bank of the Florida Keys is almost 55 years old and remains the only locally owned and operated bank exclusively serving Monroe County. What kind of pressure does it place on you to be the figurehead of such a strong tradition in the Florida Keys?
MM: Longevity is in my genes. My ancestors have inhabited the Keys for more than 45 million years. It gives me a great deal of pride to represent a bank with a real and proven commitment to the community where we work, live and play. But pressure? Come on! Dodging speeding boats and finding fresh water is pressure. Working with a Bank with 20 years of profitable growth that did not receive one cent of government bail out money is not just awesome. It’s my passion.
As a famous Manatee, do you feel like you are a role model to other marine based mammals?
Yes and First State’s Green Initiatives like the new and remodeled, energy efficient branches in Big Pine, Summerland and Key West Winn-Dixie are just a few ways we lead by example. Other than Snooty, a famous manatee at the Bradenton Museum, there really aren’t too many of us manatees in the spotlight. I just try to stay true to First State’s traditions of honesty, integrity and service, and don’t get caught up in all the fame and hype. A lot of people think Kurt Lewin and I are related, but that’s just something he made up at a Christmas party a couple years ago to impress people.
What do you hope your legacy will be at First State Bank of the Florida Keys?
Everyone knows First State Bank played a pivotal role in sinking the Vandenberg, creating one the world’s largest artificial reefs off Key West and helping our local economy and ecology. What people don’t know and Don Lanman, Senior VP/Marketing Director at FSB will never admit to, is that I was the driving force behind FSB’s involvement. Because my teeth regenerate, I never signed up for the Bank’s dental plan, which allowed me to save the Bank quite of bit of “moolah” (chuckles again) allowing FSB to be a major force behind the ship’s sinking.
How well do you relate to the other employees at First State Bank of the Florida Keys?
Other than the fact I cannot survive below 60 degrees, I’m just a regular employee. I strive to give superior customer service, I go the extra mile for anyone in need and I pride myself on being an expert in my field. More than anything, I love attending community events. Kids can never get enough of Moolah, which is what I love most about the job. However, I do tend to move a little slow at times and I eat a lot of the suckers behind the teller line.
What is life for you like outside of work?
First State Bank prides itself on actively supporting the Keys community through volunteering whenever and wherever we can help. I do a lot of charity work and community events, so I’m really never “off work,” but, I try to raise awareness for Manatees when I have time.
Moolah Note: Manatees are still an endangered species, mainly because of speeding boaters and abuse. Please be mindful of the manatees in the waters surrounding the Florida Keys this Labor Day weekend.