Laurie Gervais is a natural choice for the Women of FIRE award. In addition to climbing through the ranks from part-time teller to executive vice president and chief administration officer in her 33-year career, in the early years she was also a volunteer firefighter.
“I was the first female firefighter in Windham,” Gervais said. “It was something my father had been involved in and I loved it. I was even offered a job as a paid firefighter. But eventually I got married and was pregnant with my first child, so I stopped.”
Gervais, whose firehouse nickname was “Sparky,” credits her parents for the positive attitude and sense of her own capabilities that has fueled her success.
“My parents instilled in me that I could do what I set my mind to,” Gervais said. “They told me to believe in myself and I’d be fine.”
It was that can-do attitude that inspired Rheo Brouilliard, president of Savings Institute Bank & Trust, to nominate Gervais for this year’s awards. He said she brings that attitude to every aspect of her job, raising her family and her many volunteer pursuits.
“Her positive outlook on life and can-do attitude make her a strong leader and role model,” Brouilliard wrote in his nomination. “She is an excellent manager, one who leads by example, is fair and highly regarded by her peers and staff alike. I am proud to have her on our team.”
Though she has held many roles in the male-dominated field of firefighting and banking, Gervais said she didn’t set out to change gender norms. She simply ignored them.
“I don’t think I ever thought about the gender component. It was just one of those things when opportunities came about I would just go for them,” Gervais said. “They’ve treated me well over the years. Their confidence in me has given me confidence in myself. Two of our nine board members are women. Our CFO, senior trust officer, myself are women. We look for who’s the best fit and who can contribute to the team.”
After more than three decades with the same institution, she said she’s never considered leaving; she likes being part of such a vital community institution, one that has been around for nearly 175 years and actually predates the incorporation of the city.
“I feel like I’ve been here since 1842,” Gervais said. “It’s my way of life. We have close to 300 employees and many of them volunteer in the community. Community is very important to us. We’re not that different from the bank down the street. We all offer the same products. What makes us different is the service. That’s our mentality.”