Tradition continues: Colleagues Fitzpatrick, Gerrits back in banking together

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By Pat Faherty

Community banking is defined by assets far beyond the balance sheet. It’s about people, service, connections and location.

Just ask Patrick Fitzpatrick or Eddie Gerrits.

Community banks are also about tradition. And the latest development on the Citrus County banking scene reunites two well-known families with a strong history in local banking.

Old Florida National Bank recently announced the opening of its second Citrus County office in Crystal River.  Its other office is in Inverness.

Old Florida received approval for the acquisition of the Crystal River branch of Orange Bank of Florida in October and opened the office as a part of the Old Florida franchise Jan. 28.

While the announcement was of interest as Old Florida brings in greater assets and more services, it is also locally unique. Veteran banker and Citrus County native Fitzpatrick will lead the local team, which will remain in place.

For Fitzpatrick, it continues a banking career bringing him once again into the same financial fold as Gerrits, another Citrus native with long ties to local banking. Fitzpatrick had gone into banking out of college working for a savings and loan. Growing up Catholics in Citrus County, they have known each other for years, their families were close, they worked together and coached sports together.

Gerrits recalled how, in 1970, his family started Citizens First National Bank in Inverness.  Fitzpatrick’s father, Charles, and older brother Spike did legal work for the bank. Gerrits’ father, Ed Gerrits, worked there along with Fitzpatrick’s father-in-law Ed Tolle.

Eventually, Patrick Fitzpatrick and his brother Kevin would work there.

“We both worked at Citizens and left in 1989 for about five years,” Gerrits said. “My father thought the world of Pat’s dad; they were close business associates and personal friends.”

Gerrits and Fitzpatrick explored other opportunities and returned to banking. Gerrits commuted to Orlando and Fitzpatrick worked in Citrus County As the area grew and the banking industry changed, Gerrits ended up with Old Florida National Bank and Fitzpatrick went to Orange Bank of Florida.

“Old Florida Bank wanted to be in Citrus County,” board member Gerrits said. “We committed, 18 months ago when we bought the bank in Inverness.”

He described Old Florida as a community bank that started as a family bank. Its presence in Citrus County is a natural extension to provide local services through a financially strong institution.

And they now have locations on both sides of the county.

“What we try to do is be flexible,” Gerrits said. “If a customer’s needs don’t fit in a box, we’ll try to meet those needs.”

“We’ve got more to offer now,” Fitzpatrick said. “We have the same staff who know everyone. It went smoothly and things are working out well. Old Florida Bank offers more.”

“People don’t really bank with a bank, they bank with people,” Gerrits said. “That was the value in acquiring this office.”

Old Florida has another Citrus connection. Mike Russ, a veteran of more than 30 years in the local construction industry who had banked with Gerrits’ father, now serves on the board of directors. And, like Gerrits and Fitzpatrick, he shares an optimistic outlook for the county.

Russ reiterated Gerrits’ point about the acquisition, saying it was more than just acquiring a location, that they were looking for a great banker to join them.

Contact Chronicle reporter Pat Faherty at 352-564-2924 or pfaherty@chronicleonline.com.