Balancing act

Sharing a job
as receptionist at a local bank suits Jane Johnson and Mary Powell perfectly
Sunday, November 7, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:04 p.m. CDT, Sunday, April 8, 2007

They finish each other’s sentences, brag about each other’s families and laugh over inside jokes.

In the only job-sharing position at First National Bank and Trust, Jane Johnson and Mary Powell switch weeks as the downtown receptionist.

“It’s hard to find a team that works together well,” Johnson says.

These women seem to have it figured out. They balance aging parents, vacations with husbands and community involvement. And, of course, their job.

“Aren’t they perfect?” says Teri Smith, vice president of sales and marketing at the bank. “It’s like they’re one.”

Both have grown children —Powell three, Johnson two. Both have young grandchildren. Johnson’s grandson is 20 months, and Powell has “one and a half,” says Johnson — her granddaughter is 6, and another grandchild is on the way in April.

The pair met when they volunteered at Columbia Public Schools when their kids were younger. They gush over the bank and say they wouldn’t want to work anywhere else.

Powell talks more. Johnson mostly nods and smiles, inserting an occasional comment. Johnson is the seasoned one with 15 years at the bank, while Powell has worked for five.

“Make coffee right off,” Powell advises. “Get the coffee made for the public.” They begin laughing. “When the doors open, people are standing waiting to come in,” Powell continues. “Usually those people are in a big rush and need assistance right away. They’re not cookie cutters. They’re personal, individual people who the bank can care for.”

Powell’s family lives out of town, so she spends more time volunteering. Johnson, whose kids both live in Columbia, spends much of her free time with her children and grandson.

They intertwine stories about their families with stories about work.

“One of the beautiful aspects of our job is we can call the other person,” says Powell. “If our parents have needs, if there’s something there we need to do, it’s terrific.”

“You can do things with your family,” Johnson agrees. “There’s flexibility.”

They go back and forth, reminding each other of more examples.

“I’m totally convinced I could not find a better place to work,” Powell says. “Jane and I both agree this is the most warm, caring environment of people.” She turns to Johnson. “I think you and I kind of nurture the tellers.”

“It’s just one big happy family,” Johnson interjects, smiling.

They laugh before each story is finished, knowing how it’s going to end. Their friendship has grown, despite getting few days off together.

“Days that we’re both off, we do outings and go on shopping trips,” Powell says.

They jump at the opportunity to brag about each other

“Mary got awarded volunteer of the year (for Columbia Public Schools) two years ago,” Johnson says, beaming.

“She knows the bank inside and out, knows who’s been here,” Powell says about Johnson. “She’s always super-friendly, and being a native Columbian, she knows a lot of people.”

The mention of Columbia spurs another whirlwind.

“It’s always great when someone moves in from out of state and you say, ‘Yes! You’re going to love this place!’” Johnson says.

“We think we work for the Chamber of Commerce,” adds Powell, laughing.

Smith sums them up well. “Two grandmothers, although you could never tell, that want to spend time with their families but still work in the community.”

“We’re hoping they put up with us together forever,” says Johnson.

That shouldn’t be a problem.

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