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A Handshake and a Smile in Lafayette: What’s Your Story

The new season of What’s Your Story picks up in Lafayette Parish where, after a little searching, we found ourselves at Washington State Bank.

Here we were introduced to Sue Soileu Durand, or as her employees call her Miss Sue, born into a banking family and a native of the town of Washington.

“I used to follow my daddy into the mercantile store and we’d get green coffee beans for his mother to grind,” says Sue.

And despite growing up inside banks, being a part of one was never part of the plan.

“I have a degree in music education from USL,” Sue explains.  “And I was a choir director at the time my father passed away. The rest is history.”

Her father passed away in 1983, and Sue eventually took over the bank

“It really was an enormous day for me,” says Sue.   “Three weeks after his passing they had a shareholder meeting and my mother and I sat on the board to replace him.”

Even though Miss Sue, the only woman who is the sole shareholder of a bank in Louisiana, didn’t grow up thinking she’d ever be in her position, she’s never wavered and never looked back.

“My parents taught me that I could do anything I needed to do. That’s the way I was reared.”

Sue has continued to grow the bank, establishing the seventh branch in River Ranch in Lafayette.

“We needed a branch in River Ranch,” says Sue. “We needed a branch in Lafayette.”

The River Ranch branch is designed to feel like a country bank. And Sue says she’s worked hard to keep the small town bank feel.

“I designed this with the brick floors, the copper ceilings, and the barn doors to be like a country bank.”

As Washington State Bank heads into its 126th year,  Sue remains at the helm as she has for a quarter of the company’s lifetime.  Through the years, Sue has ensured the bank has grown to meet current needs.

“As a community bank,” says Sue. “We are the most technologically savvy bank.”

And there are two important ingredients to her success.  They remain as a connection to the past which helps keep her rooted in the community

“A handshake and a smile still has value in Washington State Bank.”

We’ll see you all next time from St. Landry Parish

Daniel Phillips

Daniel Phillips

Received a Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University, and worked in Colorado before landing in Lafayette. Morning meteorologist for KATC, along with reporting for What's Your Story. Interested in coastal and environmental stories, and stories highlighting Louisiana's rich culture.
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