“My mother was a teacher, and my father was a farmer who also was a Church of Christ minister,” Florence relates, leaning back in a chair in the bank’s conference room, remembering his early years in the lower Rio Grande Valley community of Raymondville.
“Punishment was having to take a machete out in the grain fields and chop down the sunflowers.”
Years of fighting the vicissitudes of wind and weather and deluge and drought prompted his father continually to offer one salient piece of advice: “Don’t go into farming.”
Florence took it, sort of.
Because he never severed the ties. When he attended Texas A&M University—“I’m always for the underdog”—in 1983, he earned a masters of science degree...
In agricultural economics.
Florence brings 25 years of experience to Prosperity Bank. For 18 of those years, he served with the Farm Credit System. When he accepted the offer in Beeville, he was the chief executive officer and president of a farm credit association.
Florence also has just learned he is half—or more—Cherokee.
He replaces former president Mickey Lofton, who now is banking center chairman—a position he will keep until he retires Jan. 1.
Once again, Florence has not severed all his farm credit ties. He remains on the board of the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show and finance chairman for the Valley Cotton Committee.
Not that his perspective is limited to South Texas. In 1995, a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., chose him to help organize a leasing company in Russia to help agriculture producers after the fall of the Communist party.
Although it doesn’t appear in the official news release the bank issued when he was hired March 18, he has another competitive advantage: a fluency in Spanish.
“I was speaking Spanish before English,” he says. As a preschool youngster, Florence spent his days playing with the children of Mexican farm workers his father hired to harvest his crops.
“One day, at the supper table, my mother asked me a question in English; I responded in Spanish.”
He also gained a life-long love of Mexican food.
He remains fluent but admits that, at times, he is a little rusty.
At 55, he hopes to retire in Beeville with his wife, Tracy, and their four children: two boys and two girls.
His tanned face is evidence of time spent on the golf course, and he also enjoys hunting and playing the guitar.
The architecture of the bank is conducive to Florence’s philosophy of customer relations. Until he moves into Lofton’s corner office next year, he occupies an office that has no door.