Traci Stier Promoted to Item Processing Officer at Merchants Bank

Traci Stier, Item Processing Officer

Traci Stier, Item Processing Officer

Traci Stier has been promoted to Item Processing Officer at Merchants Bank, according to Kerri Bronk, Vice President and Senior Operations Officer.

“Traci has shown leadership, especially in our most recent bank conversions following acquisitions,” Bronk said. “Traci and her team work with many departments in the Bank and have a daily impact on helping our customers because of the number of checks that process through their area.”

Stier manages all the aspects of Merchants Bank’s ability to accept checks and remote deposit capture files, including setup, testing and the coordination of all the pieces that allow Merchants Bank to accept payments. Stier has been with the Merchants organization for the past 15 years and noted that changes in technology, especially over the past few years, provide for faster responses for customers in processing their items.

“I enjoy and welcome the opportunities I have to assist any customers – both internal and external, to build relationships with people and earn their trust because they know I will take care of their needs,” Stier said.

Mortgage Lender Mary Illetschko Earns Promotion at Merchants Bank

Mary Illetschko, VP/Mortgage Loan Officer

Mary Illetschko, VP/Mortgage Loan Officer

Mary Illetschko has been promoted to Vice President/Mortgage Loan Officer at Merchants Bank in Lakeville because of her exceptional performance, according to Merchants Bank in Lakeville President Dan Vlasak.

“Mary has been a great contributor to the success of Merchants Bank and the Lakeville office,” Vlasak said. “She has been a consistently high producer, ranking in the top three in the organization in total volume for loans closed, and she also helps her mortgage customers become customers in other areas.”

Illetschko has been with the Merchants Bank organization for nearly four years and in the mortgage industry for 24 years.

“I enjoy helping people with their mortgages because you can assist them in making the best choices during an important time,” Illetschko said. “Whether it is the purchase of a first home, refinancing a current home or making the decision to build a new home, people deserve and appreciate good advice from someone who knows the mortgage industry.”

Illetschko said she has been fortunate to receive many referrals from her former clients, and over the past year she’s seen an increased demand for Merchants Bank’s construction loan product, where qualified applicants may be able to start for as little as a 5% down payment.

Construction and permanent financing are subject to separate credit approval. Terms and conditions may vary.

Waikiki Meatballs


  • 1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
  • 2/3 cup cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup onion, minced
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ginger
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 Tbsp. shortening
  • 2 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 13.5 ounce can pineapple tidbits, drained (reserve liquid)
  • 1/3 cup vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup green peppers, chopped



Mix beef, crumbs, onion, egg, salt, ginger and milk thoroughly. Shape mixture by rounded tablespoonfuls into balls. Melt shortening in large skillet. Brown and cook meatballs. Remove meatballs. Keep them warm. Pour fat from skillet. Mix cornstarch and sugar. Stir in reserved pineapple juice, vinegar, and soy sauce until smooth. Pour into skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Stir while boiling for one minute. Add meatballs, pineapple tidbits and green peppers. Heat through.



Merchants Family Cookbooks are available at all Merchants Bank locations for $15. Proceeds benefit local food shelf programs.

Meet Rodney Nelsestuen, Chief Information Officer at Merchants

Rodney with his cat, Tinkerbelle

Rodney with his cat, Tinkerbelle

When did you start your banking career?

I’ve been in the financial services industry for over 30 years. I began as a commercial lender, actually, and did that for seven or eight years. Then, I went into the management as a Chief Credit Officer and eventually became a CEO of a financial institution in Michigan. We did a lot of commercial and ag lending to small and large businesses alike.

My first job as Chief Information Officer was at AgriBank, where I stayed for six years. Then, I worked for CEB TowerGroup, which is a financial services advisory firm. I did a lot of research, wrote reports, published articles and spoke at conferences and other speaking engagements around the world. But I missed “being in the ring,” as I call it. I missed the opportunity to actually practice what I was advising.

From my time at CEB TowerGroup, I learned that I wanted to work at a bank where personal contact is still important. At Merchants, I’ve found this strong culture of personal service and yet a bank that wants to offer digital products that are right at what the industry and its customers need.

Describe one of the biggest changes in technology you’ve witnessed in your career.

There is a dichotomy that’s evolved where the traditional approach of face-to-face service is not going away, but the digital approach and expectations of customers are growing rapidly. It’s more than generational. I see it happening as new digital ideas evolve. The time from developing a digital product to the time it becomes important to the business and the consumer is very short. And that time frame is only getting shorter.

How should customers approach protecting their personal information?

People have to think “I am responsible for my information.” They have to ask themselves…how much do I want to share and with whom? The social network is great, but it opens up a whole new field for fraudsters, so people need to take care with how much they share online. As a customer, I do have to share confidential and private information with the bank if I want a loan.. But, I also expect the bank to protect that information and to stay up to date with security practices. Both sides need to take responsibility.

What’s one thing your mom or dad taught you about money?

You know those ads on TV right now about people cutting their cell phone bill in half? They say “money doesn’t spend itself.” Well, I say “money doesn’t make itself.” Quite simply, they taught me that you don’t spend what you don’t have, and when you borrow, you need to do so knowing how you’re going to pay the loan back. Take charge of your finances, that’s kind of the first step…especially for young people.

If you won the Powerball, what’s the first thing you would do?

I’d pursue my dream of writing the great American novel. I write short stories and fiction. I actually had a book accepted for publication at one time, but it was a small publisher and went out of business before it was published.

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?

The first thing my wife purchased after we got married (a long time ago) was a pair of green velvet chairs. We still have them today. They’re not going anywhere.

Have you ever googled yourself? What did you find?

Yes, I have. Actually, there was another Rodney Nilsestuen – from Arcadia and I knew him growing up. I’m originally from Galesville and we both showed cattle in 4-H at the Trempealeau County Fair. He spelled the last name with one letter different and of course that meant we’d debate who got the spelling right. I’m pretty sure I’m right…

Join Us for Community Appreciation Picnics this Summer


Please join us for these Community Appreciation Picnics in June and July!

6/3 Spring Grove
Food starts at 6:00 p.m., Music starts at 6:30 p.m.
At Spring Grove Fest Building • 110 North Division Avenue
Kick off Music in the park with Merchants Bank’s Community Appreciation Picnic.
6/23 St. Charles
5:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
At St. Charles City Park
Merchants Bank staff will be serving brats with all the fixings, catered by Porkmaster Chefs. Also, the Winona County Dairy Princesses will be serving ice cream treats from the Little Red Barn.
7/16 Hampton
11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
At Merchants Bank in Hampton
Merchants Bank staff will be serving grilled hot dogs served with all the fixings!
7/17 Rosemount Save the date! More details to come.
7/24 Cottage Grove Save the date! More details to come.

New Staff Here to Help You

At Merchants Bank, we are happy to welcome new employees and celebrate new positions filled by current staff. These frontline employees are all looking forward to serving you. Take a moment to congratulate them.

AndersonCarleyCarly Anderson has joined Merchants Bank as a Teller in Apple Valley. Carly previously worked at Orangetheory Fitness as a Sales Associate and at Merrill Hair Designers as a Receptionist and Sales Clerk. Carly is currently attending Metropolitan State University and is pursuing a degree in Finance. In her free time, she loves taking her dog to the dog park or taking the four wheeler for a ride.

BondellRossRoss Blondell has joined Merchants Bank as a Teller in Rochester. Ross previously worked at Menards as a sales person and at Fastenal as a Machinist.

DodsonKristinKristin Dodson has joined Merchants Bank as a Teller in Hampton. Kristin and her family recently moved to Minnesota from Alaska. She previously worked for Northern Schools Federal Credit Union, the University of Alaska and most recently, was a stay at home mom. She enjoys spending time with her husband and their three children.

John Piscitiello, Vice President and Commercial Banker

John Piscitiello has joined Merchants Bank as a Commercial Banker in Apple Valley. John previously worked at Associated Bank as a Commercial Banker and at Safire Group as a Investment Banker. John is a Winona native and graduated from Cotter High School and St. Mary’s University. He and his wife have four boys. In his free time, he enjoys fishing the St. Croix river, coaching youth basketball for Lakeville North High School and supporting the Courage Kenny Foundation serving individuals with disabilities.


Liz Diggins has joined Merchants Bank as a Commercial Banker in Red Wing. Liz previously worked at Associated Bank for 12 years as a Sales and Support Specialist. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business from the College of Saint Benedict and a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. She enjoys spending her free time visiting their cabin, fishing, gardening, golfing and reading.

Jim Vrchota, Vice President and Commercial Banker

Jim Vrchota has joined Merchants Bank as a Commercial Banker in Winona. Jim previously worked at United Prairie Bank as a Senior Vice President and at Center National Bank as a Commercial/Ag Lender. He has been in banking since he graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1981. He and his wife, Tami, have been married for 35 years and have four grown children. Jim’s hobbies include running, community theater and hunting.


Hope to see you at these events in June!

Merchants Bank, Community Events

Our staff invites you to join them at these great events throughout June. Be sure to follow us on our Facebook page for information on these events or pictures from other events you may have missed.

6/3 Spring Grove Music in the Park/Community Appreciation
Food served at 6:00 p.m., music starts at 6:30 p.m.
Join our Spring Grove staff for music in the park, a meal and ice cream treats and milk to celebrate June Dairy Days.
6/5 Caledonia Dairy Days Celebration
10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
At Merchants Bank in Caledonia
Please join us for ice cream treats in our lobby to celebrate Dairy Days.
6/5 Lanesboro Dairy Days Celebration
10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
At Merchants Bank in Lanesboro
Please join us for ice cream treats in our lobby to celebrate Dairy Days.
6/5, 12, 19, 26 Hampton Dairy Days Celebration
8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
At Merchants Bank in Hampton
Please join us for root beer floats in our lobby to celebrate Dairy Days.
6/6 Apple Valley Christian Elder Biker Ride
10:00 a.m.
At Merchants Bank in Apple Valley
Please join us for a welcome home celebration.
6/7 Trinona Triathlon
At Lake Park in Winona
6/10 Cannon Falls Bears Game vs. New Market Muskies
7:30 p.m.
At John Burch Park in Cannon Falls
Join us for Merchants Bank night at the Cannon Falls Bears game! Merchants Bank will provide free tickets to the game and enter for a chance to win a pair Twins tickets.*
6/11 Cannon Falls Dairy Days Celebration
11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
At Merchants Bank in Cannon Falls
Goodhue County Dairy Royalty will serve treats in our lobby.
6/12 Red Wing Dairy Days Celebration
12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
At Merchants Bank in Red Wing
Goodhue County Dairy Royalty will serve treats in our lobby.
6/19 Winona Steamboat Days Kiddie Parade
10:00 a.m.
At the Lake Park Band Shell in Winona
6/20 25th Annual Winona Pancake Breakfast
8:00 – 11:00 a.m.
At Merchants Bank Winona-Downtown
$5.00 per person • $17.00 per family • Children 6 and under FREE Open to the public. Parking available in Bank parking lot, located at the corner of Third and Walnut Streets.
6/20 Cottage Grove Strawberry Fest Parade
10:30 a.m.
Located on the corner of 80th and Jamaica Streets
6/20 Rushford/Peterson Gammel Dag Days Parade
1:00 p.m.
Located in Peterson
6/21 Winona Steamboat Days Grande Parade
12:31 p.m.
Located on Broadway Street in Winona
6/23 St. Charles Customer Appreciation Picnic
5:30 – 8:00 p.m.
At the St. Charles City Park
Merchants Bank will be serving brats with all the fixings, catered by Porkmaster Chefs. The Winona County Dairy Princesses will also be there, serving ice cream from the Little Red Barn.
6/27 Brownsville Days Parade
1:00 p.m.
Located in Brownsville
6/27 Lewiston Heartland Days Parade
6:30 p.m.
Located on Main Street in Lewiston




*No purchase or customer relationship necessary to enter to win. On person per entry. Drawings will be held the on June 10, 2015. Winner will be notified by telephone. Employees or Merchants are not eligible to win.