Knutson celebrates 40 years at Gate City Bank

Charles Crane/MDN Gate City Bank Vice President Ellen Knutson reacts to the diamond gifted by her employer in recognition for her 40 years with the bank at a celebration held April 8 in Minot.

When Ellen Knutson accepted the offer for a temporary position as a microfilm clerk at Gate City Bank on April 2, 1984, she expected to only stick around long enough to “pay off the car and save money for Christmas.” Forty years later, the local banker is now a vice president and Retail manager at Gate City Bank in Minot and celebrated the milestone with coworkers, family and friends at a ceremony held at the South Broadway location in Minot on April 8.

“It’s the biggest pleasure. People say, ‘How can you work at the same place for 40 years?’ Well everybody would want to work here if they knew how wonderful it was. Everybody has challenges and their rough days, but at the end of the day we’re a family,” Knutson said.

Though she acknowledged a 40-year milestone doesn’t come around too often, Knutson feels employees at Gate City exhibit a great deal of longevity, thanks in no small part to the level of appreciation she said the bank shows employees who stick around. Employees are given a diamond from the bank every five years of employment, along with a selection from a catalog of items, among other options, such as a donation to a cause of the employee’s choosing. Knutson elected to convert her 40th anniversary gift into a $2,500 to the Minot Area Homeless Coalition (MAHC).

“It’s those principles of high standard at work. They almost line up pretty much perfectly with my own life and the standards that I carry as a person. That’s one of our favorite things to do is to be out in the community, helping organizations and volunteering. That’s my wheelhouse. That’s something that’s never changed in 40 years. Take care of the customer. Take care of your employees. Get out there in your community and do something decent,” Knutson said.

Knutson presented the check to MAHC representatives Executive Director Karrie Christensen, board member Mike Zimmer and Executive Assistant Misty Shearer.

“I have been a part of that organization for more than 20 years. We have grown and exceeded so many expectations we’ve set for ourselves, and forged a way to help people to prevent homelessness. That truly is our mission,” Knutson said.

Knutson felt the donation option exemplified Gate City’s corporate principles of high standards, which she said gives great weight to charitable giving and civic involvement.

Services provided by the MAHC include a food bank, assistance for paying for utilities after a disconnect and help covering monthly rent or a deposit for an apartment. Knutson said she was brought into the fold with the coalition after being approached by an organizer and invited to a meeting to see if she was interested in getting involved.

“I got to know her through coming through the bank. She told me about the homeless coalition and invited me to come to one of their meetings and just hear about things they were doing and ways they were helping people,” Knutson said. “The whole organization tugged at my heart and I’ve had such great pleasure in watching people succeed and become amazing people out there in the world. We have a lot of different resources working with all of the different agencies in Minot together. Together we can sometimes get someone to go full circle and that is one thing the community is really amazing at – that collaboration in rallying around a need.”

Knutson, who is also the MAHC treasurer and a board member, hoped the $2,500 donation could be used to defray the costs associated with a new roof for the office space the coalition purchased in 2023 after years of renting.

“With a building there are things that go wrong and things you need money for. As a nonprofit you need to seek those monies. When I found out I had an opportunity to donate funds and facilitate that as a gift through my employer, it just makes me care so much more about who they are and what we stand for. For an employer to do that, you know that you’re cared for. They’re helping me make a difference,” Knutson said.

A Rugby native, Knutson’s parents ran a music shop until the death of her father at the age of nine. The youngest of four siblings, Knutson credited her mother’s example as a single mother and the encouragement she provided throughout her life for her drive and positive disposition.

“No one has been more proud of me than my family. I always hear my mom’s voice in my head, ‘If they ask you to do something, don’t say no. Because if you say no too many times they won’t ask you anymore.’ And it’s true,” Knutson said. “If you get that too many times you’re probably not going to go to them and ask them. It tells you what commitment they have.”

Knutson said she was very grateful for the various challenges that her time at Gate City Bank have provided, relishing the opportunity to train other team members to tackle system conversions over the years. Knutson recalled with pride how the bank’s leadership navigated “the lean years” following the savings and loan crisis in the ’80s, and instituted winning strategies such as free checking and the welcoming aroma of freshly baked cookies. In fact, Knutson said she has grown to relish the job even more since she applied for and was hired as a manager, a role she took on shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

“I have felt more challenges and more growth in the last five years than the first 35. Every day I wake up and can’t wait to see what’s going to happen. We’re doing such amazing things in Minot,” Knutson said. “I always read that one of the main reasons people leave a job is because of management. When I got into positions of leadership, I always remembered that in the back of my head. ‘Don’t be the reason anybody decides they don’t want to work here.’ Know what everyone is doing, and work alongside them. That’s the thing that a lot of leaders miss the boat on. You need to be standing alongside and working with your people, not just sitting in an office.”


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