FIRST PLACE Key merger figure retires from bank

He will remain on the board of directors.
WARREN -- Jeff Francis, one of the driving forces behind the merger that created First Place Bank, has retired.
Francis left his post as executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Warren-based bank effective Tuesday. He intends to spend more time with his family, the bank said.
There was no mention of a replacement. Steve Lewis is president and chief executive of the bank.
"Jeff's vision and experience was integral in the creation of First Place," Lewis said. "He will be greatly missed."
First Place was created in 2000 out of FFY Bank of Boardman and First Federal Savings and Loan Association of Warren. Francis had been president of FFY, while Lewis was president of First Federal.
The two said the merger made sense because it combined an organization that was strong in Mahoning County with one that was strong in Trumbull County. A combination would make the organizations more efficient and stronger so they could expand into other areas and offer new services, the leaders said.
Francis, 52, will remain as a board member of First Place and its parent company, First Place Financial Corp.
He began his career in 1973 as a loan officer and progressed through management to become president of First Federal Savings Bank of Youngstown, which later changed its name to FFY. He coordinated the conversion of the First Federal Savings Bank from a mutual savings and loan to a publicly traded company.
Francis, a Liberty resident, is a graduate of Champion High School. He earned a bachelor's degree in economics from Kent State University and a master's degree in finance from Youngstown State University.
He is chairman of the endowment committee at Howland Community Church and has served as a trustee at St. Elizabeth Health Center, board member at Wendell August Forge in Grove City, Pa., and faculty member at YSU and KSU.