Beeksma surprised by ouster

"Barney Beeksma said he was taken by surprise when the InterWest Bancorp Board of Directors voted him out as chairman Monday and appointed a new president and chief executive officer of both the corporation and its Oak Harbor-based subsidiary InterWest Bank.At the same time, the board also removed Steve Walden from his president and CEO position and appointed him to Beeksma's corporate chairman post.I don't know what it means, Beeksma said Thursday. It was unexpected.Beeksma, who joined the bank 40 years ago when it was called Island Savings & Loan, said he wasn't sure why the board made the decision.There was no reason given to either me or Steve. They just said they wanted a change, he said.Newly appointed president and CEO Patrick M. Fahey said this week that despite the shakeup in upper-level management, the current day-to-day operation of the bank is not likely to change.The roots of the company are in Oak Harbor and that permeates the way it operates, said Fahey. I'm not a totally different animal. I am absolutely in sync with the strategy in place.In less than 50 years, InterWest has grown from its humble beginnings as Island Savings and Loan in Oak Harbor to become a regional banking network with 55 branches and more than $2.8 billion in consolidated assets. The company employs about 200 people locally. There are InterWest branches in Clinton and Freeland.InterWest continues to report growth but, like many banks, it has seen a recent decline in stock value. The drop is mainly due to an increase in the amount of money people are taking out of traditional banking institutions and investing in high-return/high-risk technology companies.Beeksma said the drop in stock value was not cited as a reason for the management change.It had to do with other things and quite frankly, I don't know what they are, he said.Beeksma plans to remain an InterWest board member for the two years left in his current term. He said he'd have to wait and see what happens after that. He said he knew Fahey well and did not question his ability to head the company.Fahey's banking career started in 1967 when he became a management trainee at SeaFirst Bank. By 1981 he had obtained the post of senior vice president before leaving to become President of Old National Bank. He helped form Pacific Northwest Bank in 1988 and became its chairman, president and CEO. In 1998 Pacific Northwest Bank was acquired by InterWest and Fahey joined the InterWest board.Fahey, now 57, had planned to retire from banking in July but was convinced to stay on by other board members. He said he will likely split his time between InterWest's Oak Harbor and Seattle offices.A major conversion and updating of the company's six different data processing systems will be a key focus over the next couple of years said Fahey."

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