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One-on-One with Rick Wadley

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If you have not seen Rick Wadley in a while, or if you never have, there is a lot less of him to see now than in previous years. Since January 2011, he has dropped 60 pounds, mostly due to a strict exercise regimen and a McDonald’s-free meal plan.

Wadley, senior credit officer for Bank of America, begins most days running in his Tanoan neighborhood or on the track around the Albuquerque Academy as early as 3:30 a.m. regardless of the temperature. “You warm up fast,” he says of mornings in the teens.

“I used to just come straight to work when I got up (at that time), but about a year ago … Paul Krebs and I made a weight-loss bet. Paul Krebs is the athletic director at UNM. And so I started exercising twice a day.” The bet officially ended June 30, and Wadley says he “squeaked out a victory.” He also says he has kept up with the workouts but has returned to eating the occasional Quarter Pounder with fries.

Though never a runner in school, Wadley enjoyed playing sports as a kid— these days, it’s golf — and remains a sports fanatic, attending nearly all Lobo basketball games, here and away, with his wife. A red-and-white autographed Lobo basketball shoe can’t be missed in the middle of a round glass meeting table in his office Downtown, and a tall, narrow wooden cabinet against one wall contains shelves full of other sports memorabilia.

“I like sports stuff,” he says, pointing out a red boxing glove signed by Sugar Ray Leonard. “There’s a lot of good stuff here: Michael Cooper’s likeness (namely, a bobblehead of the former Los Angeles Lakers player), (a basketball signed by) Steve Alford, of course, and a football signed by various Dallas Cowboys. … I love it. My secretary says it’s all junk. When we moved from that top floor to here, she labeled the box ‘Rick’s junk.’”

If somebody handed Wadley a box of art, he’d probably give it a similar label despite the fact that the maternal side of his family is from Taos and his grandfather was an art trader there of both Indian blankets and Spanish crucifixes. “And so we have a history of art in my family, the appreciation of which I got none of,” he says.

What Wadley did appreciate in Taos was laundry. Through work for his aunt and uncle who owned a laundromat, Wadley got some of his first paychecks working for them in the summer when he was about 12. The couple had contracts with various businesses, and it was his job to “run the night truck up to Cimarron Boy Scout Camp, which, if you’ve ever been up there, it’s hairpin turns all the way. And these were old, ratty trucks. My parents didn’t know I was driving (at age 12). I learned to drive that way, though. … Usually that was a 10 o’clock at night kind of run.”

It would be only about six years later that Wadley would have his first banking job “rolling coin in the vault at the Bank of New Mexico,” never thinking he would rise to the top ranks of the profession over the next 40-plus years.

Wadley, who is the former president of Bank of America’s New Mexico operations, is now its senior credit officer. “I’ve been with this bank under various and sundry names since 1974,” he said. “I started here the same week I got married.”

Q: You’re originally from Colorado. How did you end up here?

A: My dad owned a company in Denver, co-owned it with a Taos gentleman as a matter of fact, called Southwestern Films, which still operates today. But at that time, they delivered films to theaters both in Colorado and New Mexico. And back then … theaters and drive-ins changed their films once a week. So it was a pretty booming business. And then films carried on longer and longer, and you know now they run for a month. And so that business started not doing as well, so he came here and started another trucking company.

Q: Did you have other jobs as a youth besides driving laundry?

A: When I was in high school — I went to Sandia High School — I worked at a store over on Eubank called Jiffy Broasted Chicken and there was another one over at Mayfair Market on Wyoming. This was my high school job. Boy, I tell you what, I couldn’t eat chicken for a long time. I could cut up a case of chickens in about five minutes. I got pretty good at it. … I stayed there through high school and a couple of years into college.

Q: When or how did you decide to go into banking?

A: I kinda fell into it. I was at an accounting class at UNM and working at Mayfair Market as a matter of fact, and I needed more money. I wasn’t quite making enough, and the lab instructor of the accounting class mentioned during class that his wife was with Bank of New Mexico and they needed someone to run mail in the afternoons. And so I went over one day and got that job, and that’s how I got started (in the late ’60s). … I had some sense of business, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do.

Q: Did you then get a business degree?

A: I don’t know how many hours I had left when I decided to lay off for a semester and never went back. But I was pretty close but just never went back. It’s turned into 50 years now. … I was working two jobs and trying to pay for school and was just tired. It’s too bad. … It’s something I failed at. … I sure hope my grandkids get that piece of paper.

Q: What is something you’re not very good at but have tried?

A: I had to take country-western dancing twice and I still couldn’t do it. And that’s just going around in a circle. I lived in Hobbs for a while, too. In 1984, I was asked to transfer to Hobbs. It was Sunwest Bank then but still it was Albuquerque National, which Sunwest Bank eventually became Bank of America. … … And they had to drag me out 12 years later kicking and screaming. I loved Hobbs. I still do. I almost feel like it’s my hometown.

Q: What has been your greatest personal challenge?

A: Two of our older kids had pretty severe drug problems. And that’s one of the things that took us to Hobbs. When I was asked to go, it seemed like a good time to go ’cause our kids were really in trouble here. It was a godsend that there’s a program in Hobbs called the Palmer Drug Abuse Program. … It probably saved our kids’ lives.

Q: If you were to have chosen a different profession along the way, what would it have been?

A: You mean if I had the talent to do something else? Oh gosh, who knows? Today, what I would have wanted to have been would be a golfer, but I don’t have that talent.

Q: What is the most fun you’ve had in banking?

A: The most fun I’ve had in banking was really being a teller. You know, you’ve got another customer in front of you every minute and all of them different. I mean, I was a terrible teller. I couldn’t balance to save my soul, but I loved it.

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