Cheri Kay Getz landed a role as the first woman in branch maintenance in the early 1980s, proving she could perform the same work as her male colleagues
Cheri Kay Getz’s career at U.S. Bank began in September 1980 as a safe deposit attendant at the Lake Street branch in south Minneapolis. While she liked the bank, she quickly found the job itself – literally, manning the safe deposit vault all day – to be less than stimulating.
So when the role of maintenance worker at the branch opened up, Getz literally jumped at the opportunity. She had spent her childhood helping her father, a carpenter, doing all manner of plumbing and home repairs and knew she was qualified for the job.
The only problem: no woman had ever held a role in the bank’s maintenance department before, and her male colleagues and hiring managers were skeptical that she would have the strength or stamina required.
“It was not easy for me to get that job,” Getz said. Although she convinced them to hire her, she was on probationary status for an entire year, rather than the typical 90 days, all while receiving a lower wage than the $5 an hour her male counterparts received – a pay differential that was customary at many companies at the time.
Nonetheless, Getz loved her job and thrived in the role, expanding her responsibilities to handle maintenance for five branches in the area. The Lake Street branch remained nearest to her heart, and she got to a point where she could tell what was wrong with the building “simply by the sounds it was making,” she said – whether it was a plumbing issue or if the air handling system wasn’t working right.
Contrary to the initial concerns of her coworkers, she had almost no issues with the physical demands of the job, including moving heavy boxes around the stock room or cleaning up sewage from plumbing problems in the bathroom.
“The only thing I couldn’t do was go up a ladder vertically, like to replace a light in a stairwell – I was too much of a coward to do that,” she said.
(Check out the #usbankroadtrip video on some of the U.S. Bank memorabilia Getz has collected and curated over the years below.)
During the 1980s, the Lake Street branch was bustling – it had 25 teller windows on the main floor, in addition to a basement, sub-basement and multiple corporate offices. Getz created a computer program to track all of the stock supplies in her five buildings at the appropriate levels, an idea that caught on with other maintenance workers.
Over time, though, consumer habits changed and the Lake Street branch reduced its footprint. Getz spent nine years in the role before the company decided to outsource maintenance to a vendor.
She then transitioned into a role as a teller and found she thrived in that position, too, because she loves working with people – especially the community around Lake Street she knows so well.
“That building was my home for 40 years,” she said. So it was heartbreaking when the property was damaged during civil unrest in May 2020.
Within weeks, U.S. Bank set up a mobile banking unit in the branch’s parking lot to help the community with banking services, and Getz was eager to volunteer to staff it because she knew the customers would want to see familiar faces when they came back.
She now works as a banker at the new branch about a mile away at 3600 East Lake Street, but before construction crews tore down the damaged old location, she got permission for a bittersweet final tour.
“I took one last tour through the building, and I could still see my name on some of the tags documenting work and maintenance on the air handling unit and all throughout the basement and sub-basement,” she said.
While the new building has none of the familiar sounds of the old Lake Street branch, Getz said, the welcoming feeling is the same.
“I live in this community, I work in this community, my religion is in this community,” she said. “This community knows and trusts me, and I want them to know that the bank is always going to be here for them.”
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