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Ronnie Maxwell: Jackson has the ‘Hallmark feel’

Ronnie Maxwell, assistant vice president and loan officer at First State Community Bank, 320 W. Main Street, Jackson, says he loves his job because every business he deals with is unique, making every day new. Photo by Gregory Dullum

Ronnie Maxwell, a loan officer and assistant vice president at First State Community Bank, and one of the owners of Barrel 131, may have been born in Cape Girardeau, but he bleeds red and black.

Maxwell attended Nell Holcomb School, which only goes to the eighth grade. He continued his education in Jackson as a freshman.

During his junior year at Jackson High School, he met his future wife, Jessica, and they became “high school sweethearts.” They now live in town on a family farm with their two children, Anniston, who attends Jackson Middle school, and Collin, who attends East Elementary.

(Jessica has a long history with the Jackson R-2 School District. Beginning as a third-grade teacher, she became a principal at South Elementary and then at East Elementary when it opened, and she is now an associate superintendent for the school district.)

After graduating from JHS, Ronnie started pursuing a degree in mass communications at Southeast Missouri State University. But instead of going that direction, he said he “found a calling in banking.”

He started out as a teller with Wood & Huston Bank. He spent nine years at The Bank of Missouri and eight years at First State Community Bank. “This year, I’m celebrating my 18th year in banking,” he said.

Maxwell loves his job. As a loan officer, he arranges loans, of course. However, his focus is on “relationship management and business development,” he said. “I work with businesses. We help do annual reviews and look at new goals and opportunities. It’s a partnership, and I just make sure that we’re both working to mutually benefit each other.”

He meets business owners in the conference room at the bank or at their businesses. “A lot of times, we’ll go to the business. We’ll stand in their shop, and it’s kind of neat. You actually get to see what they do and how their organizations operate. Every organization is unique.

“You have to understand how farms operate and how their cash-flow works. They don’t sell things every day; they only sell things a couple times a year. But then you have other manufacturers that sell things regularly, but they carry accounts receivable, so their money takes 30, 60, and sometimes 90 days to come in. You’ve got to work with the unique structure of a business, and it’s always interesting because it always changes. No two businesses are alike. The best part of my job is the newness of it every day.”

Maxwell also really enjoys working with his team at the bank. He said he likes working with some of his best friends.

Maxwell is a strong advocate for community banks, saying, “If community banks weren’t here, our town would be crippled.”

Eleven of the 12 banks in Jackson are community banks.

“When you look at the wrestling teams, baseball teams and soccer teams, on the back of their shirts, they’re always sponsored by community banks. Many hometown events — Oktoberfest or anything like that — most of the sponsors are community banks.

When you go into our schools, a lot of our partnerships with our elementary schools and high schools are made up of community banks.

“Community banks are pretty vital to our Jackson area and how we operate. The money that we spend here — the money that we make here — stays in our area. When you have larger banks, they may be headquartered in Alabama or they may be headquartered in New York or somewhere out of state. When you make your loan payment, part of that profit goes there. It leaves your community; it leaves your area; it leaves your state. If you keep your dollars here, we reinvest them back into the community.”

Maxwell was involved in distributing funds during the COVID-19 pandemic under the Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP). He helped businesses get the federal funds and helped make sure the loans were forgiven as promised by the federal government.

Local banks did about 8,000 PPP loans in Jackson. “It helped keep people in their homes, helped keep groceries on the table and bills paid; the businesses could continue to pay their workers’ salaries while they weren’t working,” Maxwell said.

PPP funds became available from the federal government on a first-come, first-served basis. Maxwell said he and others at his bank worked feverishly so Jackson businesses could benefit before the funds ran out. “We had to be as quick as we could. There were days that we would get to work at 6 in the morning and we wouldn’t leave until 10 or 11 o’clock at night. We would just be entering PPP loans — processing them and entering them into the SBA website as quickly as we could. And we had to do the financials on the front end to make sure that our businesses wouldn’t get hurt on the back end. These PPP loans were going to be forgiven by the federal government if the businesses qualified for them. It was our job to make sure the qualifications were met. All of our PPP loans — every single one that we did — were forgiven.”

In addition to his banking duties, Ronnie and his wife Jessica are part owners of Barrel 131 in Uptown Jackson, along with Joe Hobbs and his wife Michelle.

They opened the upscale bar and package liquor store six years ago this March.

“I’ve really enjoyed owning and growing a local business in town,” Maxwell said.

The site was formerly SEMO Specialty and Sports, and before that, it was Ideal Grocery. The building was remodeled after it was purchased. “We kept the original floors and the ceiling, but everything else is brand new, and we built it the way it looks today.”

The owners are choosey about the products they sell. “Joe and I handpick everything that goes in there,” Maxwell said. “So people put their faith in us that we’re going to pick good products. We host free tastings every Thursday night; that may be wine tastings, it could be beer; it could be cocktails, it could be — you name it. We just have a lot of fun doing tastings every Thursday, to help educate people and to create another event for people in Jackson to go to and help support Uptown.”

Barrel 131 is a “21-and-up establishment,” and it doesn’t stay open as late as most bars do. It opens at noon and typically closes at 10 or 11 p.m. It’s not open Sundays or Mondays.

“It’s a fun local business to be part of,” Maxwell said. “We’ve seen people celebrate birthdays and anniversaries. We host a lot of Christmas parties.

“We feel like the community supports us a lot and enjoys the camaraderie. When you come in the Barrel, we don’t have a TV on. When you look around, you don’t see people on their phones. It’s people having conversations, and we’ve tried to create an environment for them to do that.”

Business at Barrel 131 is “going great,” Maxwell said.

And if banking and Barrel 131 are not enough, Maxwell has been a Jackson supporter in many other ways — although some have taken a “back seat” while his children are young.

“I am a huge advocate for the chamber (the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce). When I was younger, I was an ambassador.

Now I’m actually on the Board of the chamber. I served on the Jackson R-2 Foundation Board for 10 years, president for six of those years.” He also serves with the Jackson Heritage Association which operates the Oliver House. He coaches JAYF football and has coached Jackson Optimist wrestling for 15 years.

Ronnie and Jessica are members of New McKendree United Methodist Church in Jackson, where they are very active in

“Breaking Bonds,” a ministry for men recovering from addictions. “Church is what we’re most active in right now,” he said.

Maxwell likes Jackson. “I like that the people in Jackson always rally behind each other in times of need. In the times of PPP there was a large push to shop locally.

“We still hold that ‘Hallmark’ feel to our community, where you can go to a football game on a Friday night, [or] a baseball game, [or] go to a sporting event and watch local kids and sit next to people you know. You go to Oktoberfest and see each other. You go to the golf course and see each other. There is just that hometown feeling even though we’re on the cusp of becoming a larger city.”

Maxwell is well aware of the growth taking place in Jackson. In the past decade, the Jackson R-2 School District has added 1,000 new students.

“I remember at a football game on Friday night, we were a Class 4A school, and now we’re just a handful of kids from being 6A. We’ll obviously be there next year at the pace we’re growing. We may be there by the end of this school year. The last time I talked to one of the athletic directors, it was 60 kids away from being 6A. So we’ll be 6A soon.”

Jackson has changed in other ways. Maxwell has noticed “the change from being an agricultural-heavy community to industrial-heavy. Part of that’s sad — the change that people don’t want to see. You don’t want to see small churches go away. You don’t want to see farms turn into neighborhoods. But you also see the growth in your schools and the growth in your industries and things like that, and the opportunities that come with that. So, it’s a give-and-take thing.”

Maxwell has a vision for future growth he would like to see in Jackson. “Being on the chamber board, I would love to see more smaller shops and smaller restaurants. I would love to see a white tablecloth restaurant — a fine dining or steak house — come to Jackson. I would love to see the continued improvement in hotels and places to stay. I would love to see a performing arts center for our high school. I think there is a culture in Jackson that we can nurture and grow.”

Gregory Dullum has worked for The Cash-Book Journal for more than 25 years. Prior to becoming the editor in May 2017, he was production manager, circulation manager and reporter. Before moving to Cape Girardeau in 1988, he was editor of the Saint Louis Park Sailor, a weekly community newspaper in suburban Minneapolis, MN. A native of Minnesota, he returned there after graduating with distinction in 1978 from Ambassador College in Pasadena, CA, with a degree in mass communications. His wife, Marie, whom he met in college, is a native of Zalma, a small town in southeast Missouri. They have two grown daughters and five grandchildren. Gregory may be reached at

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