The executives retired from Truist Financial Corp., but not from community service.
Two of Jacksonville’s business and community leaders are beginning the next chapters of their lives.
Truist Financial Corp.’s Jacksonville Market President Debbie Buckland and the bank’s Regional President for North Florida Scott Keith retired Sept. 30.
“I am emotional, but it’s a happy emotion. I have more than 40 years in banking and I’ll be 65 my next birthday. It’s a logical time frame,” Buckland said.
Keith, 56, was a banker for nearly 35 years. Participation in saving and investment programs allowed him to retire early, he said.
They started their careers somewhat by chance.
When Keith enrolled at Florida State University in 1983, he wasn’t planning to become a financial services executive.
“I went to school to be a TV weatherman,” he said.
“My dad, who was a pilot in the Air Force, said that wasn’t a good idea. He said the weathermen were always in the back of the airplane getting sick.”
Keith enjoyed his classes in money and banking, so he changed course and graduated in 1987 with a degree in economics.
“I met with Chase and NCNB. That’s what I wanted, but I did an on-campus practice interview with American National Bank,” Keith said.
“The president of the bank offered me a job, so in December 1987 I came to Jacksonville for the first time. I’ve been here my entire career.”
After nearly six years as a vice president at American National Bank, Keith moved to SunTrust in 1995.
He was CFO and executive vice president at Scott-McRae Automotive Group, a network of dealerships, from 2003 to 2005, when he went back into banking at BB&T as Jacksonville area executive.
He became North Florida regional president when it merged with SunTrust to form Truist in 2019.
For Buckland, her career in financial services was more about making the most of an opportunity than four years of college with a plan.
After graduating from Emory & Henry College in 1979 with a degree in business, economics and philosophy, Buckland married and looked for a job.
“I went to work at a bank and started as a teller,” Buckland said.
She later moved into the executive offices at the bank. After it merged with SunTrust, Buckland left the industry for more than nine years to be a self-described “stay-at-home mom.”
When her husband, Jamie, also a banker, took a job in Jacksonville in 1998, the family moved and Buckland went back to work at SunTrust and then at Branch Banking & Trust. She became first vice president in 2001, senior vice president in 2007 and executive vice president in 2010.
Buckland was named Jacksonville market president in 2014 and helped lead the merger that became Truist in 2019.
In addition to growing their banks’ retail, commercial and wealth management operations, Buckland and Keith were involved in community service during their careers in the executive suite.
Buckland currently is vice chair of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority. She is past chair of JAX Chamber, Downtown Vision Inc., Jacksonville Women’s Business Center and the American Cancer Society.
She also serves on the boards of First Coast YMCA and JAX Chamber Foundation and is a member of the Women’s Board of Wolfson Children’s Hospital, Jacksonville Women’s Network and the Women’s Giving Alliance.
In 2019, she was inducted into the First Coast Business Hall of Fame and received DVI’s Downtown Achievement Award.
Keith was on the board at Wolfson Children’s Hospital and the hospital’s Development Council. He is a former member of the JAX Chamber board of governors and past chair of Cornerstone, the chamber’s economic development division now called JAXUSA Partnership.
Keith also served on The Players Council of The Players Championship and is a member of the Chairman’s Club of the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl, organizations whose missions are to support local nonprofits that help underserved residents.
“Our industry supports communities. We find ways to give back to the less fortunate. It’s not about me or us. It’s about the impact you can make on the journey,” Keith said.
“We are two people trying to do the right thing. You know in your heart you are leaving it better than you found it,” Buckland said.
Those who worked with Buckland and Keith in community service say that each of the former bankers was dedicated to serving the community not just because it was good for business, but it is their personal philosophy.
“Both Scott and Debbie are true community trustees,” said Audrey Moran, former senior vice president at Baptist Health, who knew them through their work with Wolfson Children’s Hospital.
“They both contributed personally as well as on behalf of the bank, to make our community better,” Moran said.
Karen Wolfson remembers the day about 15 years ago when she visited Keith in his office at BB&T.
“They were the new bank in town. Wolfson Children’s Hospital didn’t have a development director at the time, so I walked in and asked him for $1 million,” Wolfson said.
“I didn’t get it. Back then, people didn’t give million-dollar gifts.”
It was, however, the beginning of a long relationship between the hospital and the bank and friendship with the two bankers.
“Scott and Debbie are kind, giving people. The bank cared about making lives better and they both lived that in terms of what they did,” Wolfson said.
Buckland and Keith will continue their personal commitment to the community in what they call “the next chapters” of their lives.
Buckland was elected to the WJCT board of trustees and next year will become chair of the JTA.
“I feel strongly about local journalism, and JTA is integrating transportation to serve the community. This is my home and I will always be invested in making things better,” she said.
In addition to community service, Keith said he looks forward to spending more time with his wife and children and having more opportunities to hunt and fish at the family’s 50-acre farm in Central Florida, where Keith makes videos for his YouTube channel, Creek Rise Outdoors.
He might return to business.
“I’m in the position to do what I do because I want to do it. I’ll probably poke my head up in the spring,” Keith said.
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