Citizens First Bank Transitioning Soon To New Leadership

Lindsey Blaise will continue to guide the institution's board after seven successful years as its president and CEO.

By DAVID R. CORDER Ι Daily Sun Specialty Editor
Lindsey Blaise, a long-serving community leader who piloted Citizens First Bank through an unparalleled level of success as a community bank, is stepping down after seven years as its president and CEO.

The granddaughter of the bank’s founder, the late H. Gary Morse, cited a desire to spend more time with her family for her departure in

She will remain on the bank’s board of directors.
“This summer the board and I started discussing about me wanting to spend more time with my three young children,” said Blaise, who earned a master’s degree in business administration at Rollins College and began work 14 years ago as a bank intern. “It was a very difficult decision for me to step aside and transition the leadership of the bank.”

During that discussion, Blaise recommended as her replacement Jay Bartholomew, who served as executive vice president and chief banking officer.

“Jay joined us seven years ago to oversee the commercial and retail side of the bank,” she said. “He is absolutely a wonderful support and
continued to take on more responsibilities. He was the right fit to be my successor as president and CEO.”

In his 36-year banking career, Bartholomew has worked at Barnett Bank, First Federal Saving Bank and Colonial Bank. Most recently he served seven years in various leadership roles at the former Branch Banking & Trust Co.

“Throughout my career I played the role as a problem solver; broken culture, broken team, repair it and get it back on track,” he said. “This is an amazing organization that is well-run, has a great reputation and is well-thought of not only by the community but also banking regulators. I’m stepping into something that’s already in good hands, and it’s a matter of continuing what’s been built. We have a great recipe for success, we really do.”

The bank is losing a talented executive, said Alex Sanchez, who watched Blaise’s rise during his time as president and CEO of the Florida Bankers Association.

“First of all, Lindsey is a very good person,” said Sanchez, who today is president and CEO of Tallahassee-based Salva Financial Group.  "She’s the type of person you want as a leader. She’s dedicated. She has tremendous credibility to her integrity. I fully understand and support her decision. It also shows you what type of person she is — a great individual, a great human being. I admit I’m disappointed in the news because I would love to see her continue in the industry. But from a personal perspective, I’m very happy for her and her family.”

Under Blaise’s leadership, the bank experienced a 78% increase in total assets, growing to nearly $4 billion during her time as president
and CEO.

Today, it ranks as the 11th largest Florida-based bank. 

When she took control, the bank operated eight branch offices with 196 employees. Now there are 15 offices with three more in development staffed by 417 workers.
“What I’m most proud of is the team we’ve assembled here at the bank,” she said. “It’s not just our outstanding senior leadership team, but all of our team members are dedicated to serving our customers in our community. It’s been a period of amazing growth for the bank, and being a part of that has been a great opportunity.”

While devoting time to family, Blaise also plans to spend more time promoting autism awareness, a cause she and her husband are actively involved in supporting.

“Raising three young children is a lot, and our youngest son is on the autism spectrum,” she said. “So, I hope to spend time nurturing them and helping to build out an autism community throughout the area.”