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Lake Country Faces: Pine River area banker retires after rewarding career spanning several banks

Jay Cline will stay involved with the community, but he isn't sure what his plans are going forward.

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Jay Cline's last day with First National Bank North was Dec. 31. He said he has yet to decide what he will be doing with his time. Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

For Jay Cline, it's been all about life on the lake from the start.

After retiring from a banking career with the new year, it looks like Cline will be spending even more time watching the waves, at least until he finds other activities to keep him busy.

Cline grew up in Hackensack. His parents owned Happiness Resort on Ten Mile Lake until 1972, where they raised him and his brother.

"I still live two or three doors down from Happiness Resort, next door to my mom and dad," Cline said. "Mom is 93 and my dad is 96, and my brother lives on the same lake just up the road from me. "

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" "I still don't know what I want to do when I grow up. The one thing that came naturally to me was numbers. I always enjoyed working with numbers and with people. The resort industry taught me how to work with people. Schooling taught me to do numbers, and that's where I found out where I was most comfortable doing things. "

— Jay Cline.


Spending his formative years at the resort meant a lot of his personality developed in that environment.

"Resort life was great," Cline said. "We always learned how to be nice to people because you wanted them to come back to the resort. You learned how to treat people and make sure they were having a good time."

Customer satisfaction was basically his job.

"My job was making sure the guests were happy," Cline said. " And making sure the boats were all cleaned out. Making sure we did a trash run every night so the animals wouldn't get into it. I'd run around picking up trash and entertaining and playing with other kids. I made sure they were busy, and as we grew up I'd help them learn to swim or teach them how to drive a boat."

The resort created a foundation for the rest of his life.

"(I made) some very good friends that have followed through the whole lifelong experience," Cline said. "For example, Lisa Tuller, who used to own Swanson's Bait and Tackle in Hackensack, would come to our resort. They are on the lake with us now. A lot of people that used to stay at our resort have now come back to the lake and bought places on the lake."

At an early age he found he had an aptitude for numbers, and that ultimately led him to where he is today.

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"I still don't know what I want to do when I grow up," Cline said. "The one thing that came naturally to me was numbers. I always enjoyed working with numbers and with people. The resort industry taught me how to work with people. Schooling taught me to do numbers, and that's where I found out where I was most comfortable doing things."

After graduating from Walker High School, Cline obtained a degree in accounting from Brainerd Vocational College. He immediately picked up an accounting job courtesy of a resort guest from Iowa who ran a grain elevator. The accountant had left the company. Upon learning that Cline fit the bill, the businessman hired him.

Cline worked there from about 1978 to 1982, when yet another acquaintance from home came calling.

Cline had worked at a gas station where he met Chuck Nelson, who became a friend. Nelson owned Cass Company Insurance. In 1982, he bought Backus State Bank and called Cline.

"I took care of the computer operations for them," Cline said. "We sold the Backus State Bank office to First National Bank of Walker in December of 1998."

Cline bounced from bank to bank for a while, moving with the Backus State Bank charter to Pequot Lakes State Bank. When another group bought that bank, Cline moved to Pine River State Bank until 2000, when he moved to Centennial Bank in Walker and then in Jenkins.

In 2014, more than Cline moved when the Jenkins bank building was split in two, loaded onto trucks and hauled away.

"They moved the bank from Jenkins down to Baxter, which was the easiest move," he said. "It was next to impossible with all the curves to move it to Longville."

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In the spring of that year, Cline returned to Backus, where he worked at First National Bank North until retiring Dec. 31. The decision to retire wasn't spurred by anything. It just seemed to be the right time after his employers approached him asking if he'd like to retire early.


" It just kind of came about and we decided this might be the good Lord's way of saying now it's time. Technology is really moving fast and the banking world is moving through a lot of different technology. There's a lot of indicators or signs."

— Jay Cline.


"It just kind of came about and we decided this might be the good Lord's way of saying now it's time," Cline said. "Technology is really moving fast and the banking world is moving through a lot of different technology. There's a lot of indicators or signs."

Cline's wife of 25 years, Julie, retired from Pine River-Backus School years earlier, and he looks forward to joining her and doing more of the activities they have been doing for years. Living on Ten Mile Lake, many of those activities are on the water.

He still fishes using one of the boats he grew up with at the resort. He also likes to vacation at a cabin in Canada where he hunts, fishes and searches for moose antler sheds.

Back home he does more fishing, boating and underwater metal detecting along the shore of Ten Mile Lake, where they used to load logs from the lake onto waiting trains for shipment.

"I always end up with a whole bucket full of stuff," Cline said.


" The number of people I've helped mentor in this field and the number of relationships that are built with both employees and customers is just very, very rewarding. My career has been a good career."

— Jay Cline.


When metal detecting, he often works with his children and grandchildren. He and Julie each brought three children to the relationship, so when they all get together Cline will often walk in the water with his detector where he finds a signal and marks it for the kids to start digging before he moves to find more signals.

He has also long been an avid volunteer and a member of several civic groups, including the Hackensack Chamber of Commerce, the Pine River Chamber of Commerce, Cass County Economic Development Board, Paws and Claws Animal Rescue Board, Ten Mile Lake Association, Hackensack Lions Club and more.

Other than delving more into his current hobbies, Cline is unsure what he will do with his time.

"I have no definite plans at this point after I retire," he said. "My folks live next door to me, so I'm planning on spending family time with them, maybe doing a couple of short vacations. We'll just see what the days bring, but at this time I'm not willing to commit to going back to work."

Cline will miss the people he met in his years in banking, both the customers, coworkers and supervisors.

"The number of people I've helped mentor in this field and the number of relationships that are built with both employees and customers is just very, very rewarding," he said. "My career has been a good career."

Travis Grimler is a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper in Pequot Lakes/Pine River. He may be reached at 218-855-5853 or travis.grimler@pineandlakes.com.

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Jay Cline's last day with First National Bank North was Dec. 31. He said he has yet to decide what he will be doing with his time. Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

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