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Exchange Bank chief to retire, again


This isn't the first time Bill Reinking has stepped back from the helm at the historic Sonoma County financial institution that figured hugely in the creation of the Golden Gate Bridge and that helps legions of students pay for college.

But Reinking is banking on this retirement being his last.

Friday afternoon, he and his wife and former Santa Rosa schoolmate M-L (Pelganti) Reinking were cleaning out his airy third-floor office at the downtown headquarters of Exchange Bank. She is seldom addressed as Mary-Louise, he rarely as C. William.

Having served previously as the bank's president, Bill Reinking now has packed it in as chairman of the board. The chairmanship has switched to Bill Schrader, who retired earlier this month as president and CEO.

Thinking back on Reinking's run at Exchange Bank causes the former drag-racer, still remarkably boyish at 71, to dig deep. His late father, Charles W. Reinking, was the firm's president and chairman when he got a summer job printing banking forms. That was 54 years ago, right after he graduated from Montgomery High in 1960.

Subsequently, he said, "I worked in every department, except for computers."

Reinking recalls with heightened fondness the years he was a young teller, then manager of the branch at the Montgomery Village shopping center.

"The Village has always been a special place for me," he said. The feeling is mutual: In honor of his and his wife's half-century of service to the bank and the community, the Montgomery Village branch is being renamed the Reinking Office.

Bill Reinking was still at that branch and still coming to the realization that he was destined for a career in banking when his dad, the Exchange Bank president, died of a heart attack in 1969, at just 64.

The two of them never were able to discuss in detail the running of Sonoma County's largest community bank, "one of the voids of my life," the junior Reinking said.

His father's early death was made all the more bittersweet the day in 1985 that shareholders named him the fifth president to run the bank since 1890, when it was founded by Manville Doyle and his son, Frank.

Reinking's father, the third president, succeeded Frank Doyle, who died in 1948 after a lifetime of soaring achievement. Doyle was the single most important advocate of improving transportation to the north of San Francisco Bay by erecting a bridge over the Golden Gate.

Among the artifacts in the history room at Exchange Bank headquarters at Fourth Street and Mendocino Avenue is the link of silver chain that Doyle ceremoniously cut with an acetylene torch to officially open the span on May 27, 1937.

Doyle and J. Henry Williams, a Dodge dealer in Santa Rosa, then savored the honor of driving the first private car across what has become one of the most photographed and beloved man-made structures on Earth.

Seven years later, Frank Doyle was thinking of his late wife, Polly O'Meara Doyle, and Frankie, the son they lost at age 13, when he specified in his will that his controlling share of Exchange Bank common stock be placed in perpetual trust.

He directed that a small percentage of the dividends from those shares go toward maintaining Santa Rosa's Doyle Park, which he created in Frankie's memory. The rest of the dividends were to be distributed as scholarships to Sonoma County high-school graduates wishing to study at Santa Rosa Junior College.

It's a great source of pride to Reinking, who will continue to serve as a trustee of the Doyle Trust, that about 120,000 students have entered SRJC with Doyle Scholarships totalling more than $76 million.

Reinking was 60 when he retired as Exchange Bank's president/CEO in 2002 and assumed the position of chairman. His successor as top executive, J. Barrie Graham, announced that Exchange Bank would open an office in Sacramento and mount a more aggressive loan strategy.

The low point in Reinking's tenure with the bank came in 2008, when the real-estate slump contributed to defaults on many of the bank's construction loans. A painful result was that the bank halted the payment of dividends and for the first time ever suspended the Doyle Scholarships.

Graham departed Exchange Bank late in 2008, and Reinking came out of semi-retirement to return to the post of CEO, with William Schrader stepping up from chief operating officer to president.

Over the past five years, the bank has returned to a more conservative lending stance, recovered from the deep losses it suffered and resumed paying dividends. One year ago, it restored the Doyle Scholarships, though the grants to students are far more modest than prior to 2008.

As Reinking retires for good, he said he feels good about all the bank and its employees contribute to Sonoma County, including the approximately $500,000 donated annually to more than 200 charitable causes.

"That's rewarding, that you were able to have an impact on the community," he said. As the bank's First Lady, M-L has championed many causes, he noted. For years she has been one of the top fundraisers in the Volunteer Center of Sonoma County's annual Human Race.

"I love this bank," she said. "It's a family."

The Reinkings don't anticipate being bored in retirement. Confirmed car nuts, they've got a 1964 Chevy Corvette in the garage, and they're restoring the rare, '65 two-door Chevelle sedan that was bought new by M-L's dad, Harry Pelganti.

Parents of two and grandparents of two, the Reinkings actively support Becoming Independent, and they're famous for helping to produce lots of puppies as service dogs for Canine Companions for Independence. Their late dog, Bobby, a black Labrador retriever, sired 650 pups, 238 of which partnered with children and adults with disabilities.

Today the Reinkings share their home with Bobby's last grandson, Ross, also a prolific sire. "He stole Bill's heart from me," M-L sighed.

As Reinking cleared his office Friday of the last remnants of a 54-year career, he was feeling pretty good about what he had accomplished.

"I inherited a good bank," he said. "I didn't screw it up."

(Chris Smith is at 521-5211 and chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.)