ALEXANDRIA, MN – As a personal lender and volunteer first responder, Elizabeth Radil walks through fire for those in need.
From a young age, Elizabeth Radil (Thill) knew she wanted to become a volunteer firefighter. Like a moth to the flame, both of her grandfathers and a great-grandfather had been drawn to that life, and other family members had followed suit by also becoming emergency responders. Helping people and serving communities always seemed like second nature, the family business – like it was in her blood.
As the years went on, Radil’s desire to help others grew like wildfire. Little did she know, not only would she one day save lives, but she would also help people create a better way of life, and it would all unfold in a manner more perfect than she could have ever imagined.
In 10th grade, as a girl considering what had for so long been a male-dominated trade, Radil began to question whether or not she was good enough to serve as a volunteer firefighter; if she truly had what it takes to brave the blaze. That’s when she stumbled upon an opportunity that would change the trajectory of her life – and ignite a passion that’s still burning strongly today.
“One day, the Alexandria Fire Department came to my high school to recruit for its new Explorer Program, which offered students training and gave a behind-the-scenes look at the duties of a volunteer firefighter,” Radil says. “I figured I’d see what it was about, and I fell in love with it immediately.”
But that’s not the only thing she fell in love with. Little did Radil know, her future husband, Darren, was also in the program. Sparks began to fly on day one.
“He asked me out, but I honestly wasn’t allowed to date at the time,” she says with a chuckle. “His cousin told him that was a nice way for a girl to say, ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’ We still laugh about it to this day.”
The two spent lots of time together as friends throughout the duration of the program, which ran through their senior year. Upon graduating from high school, however, she asked him out, and the rest is history. Elizabeth and Darren have been married for nine years, and in December 2022 they added a little iron to the fire, baby girl Esther.
As it turns out, Darren comes from a long line of emergency responders, as well. And for the past 10 years, the couple has volunteered as certified firefighters and nationally registered EMTs with the nearby Forada (MN) Fire Department and First Responders. In the heat of the moment, they stick together and always have each other’s backs.
“It’s kind of comforting knowing that he and I fight fires as husband and wife,” Radil says. “We work very well together. We don’t even have to talk to each other much when we get called out because we know each other so well and we know how to operate as a team.”
Radil experiences the same sense of camaraderie when she works with her fellow team members at Gate City Bank. Since joining the Alexandria team as personal lender in March 2022, everyone has had her back through thick and thin – a warm change of pace from previous jobs.
Before joining the bank, Radil spent four years at a different financial institution, where she regularly found herself having to serve in multiple roles and learn new things quickly. Some days it felt like burning the candle at both ends, but she saw the experience as a blessing in disguise – it strengthened her and helped her grow. Plus, she always had faith something better would come along one day.
She remembers getting the call from Gate City Bank after sending in her application. The local team was not only impressed with the wealth of knowledge she had built in such a short amount of time, they also fell in love with her delightful personality. Radil was a perfect fit for the bank’s culture, which revolves around supporting one another, celebrating accomplishments, honoring family time – and having fun.
“At previous jobs, I was very much on my own when it came to learning things. I was often the youngest by 30 years, and there wasn’t much guidance or support,” Radil says. “Gate City Bank turned out to be completely different. The culture is amazing! It’s actually fun to go to work.”
Radil immediately felt like part of the group, which she often describes as tight-knit. They’ve dressed as M&Ms for Halloween. They’ve met up for dinner after work. They even started a book club.
This was more like it.
“When you find a job at Gate City Bank, you want to stay. My fellow team members have been so great to work with, to the point where I’m never afraid to ask questions,” Radil says. “It’s an environment of friendship, coaching and learning. Everyone wants to see you grow, which I love.”
Additionally, Radil was stoked when she glanced at Gate City Bank’s benefits package, which is among the best in the region.
“The benefits here aren’t just good, they’re amazing! That’s what got me interested in Gate City Bank in the first place, especially since my husband and I were wanting to start a family,” she says. “When I saw that the bank offers 12 weeks of maternity leave, I was immediately like, ‘Okay, I’m applying.’ Previous jobs had only offered one week, which I can’t even imagine now. That baby time is so precious.”
In addition to maternity leave, Radil appreciates Gate City Bank’s other paid-leave options. Along with holidays (including birthdays), team members enjoy fully paid short-term, caregiver, bereavement, mission and military leave, as well as four weeks for paternity leave (including adoption). She also likes the bank’s low-deductible health plan, complimentary telemedicine program and free vision insurance.
When Radil isn’t walking through fire to save people from burning buildings, she’s going the extra mile to make sure her customers are cared for.
“I love getting to know our customers,” she says. “What they think and how they feel is very important to me, and I love building relationships with them.”
Having lived in Alexandria since she was 8 years old, Radil recognizes a lot of the faces that come through the front door. Whether it’s a fellow firefighter, a former classmate or her mom, she gets a lot of smiles. People simply can’t help but love “Elizabeth at Gate City Bank.” Not just for her excellent customer service and friendly demeanor – but for her strong faith and positive outlook on life.
“You never know what people are going through,” she says. “If I can make their day a little easier or happier, I’m glad to do it.”
And as someone who believes strongly in volunteer work, Radil truly appreciates Gate City Bank’s strong commitment to the communities it serves. If a cause is near and dear to a team member’s heart, the bank backs them 100%. For her, that means everything.
“It’s a blessing to see how much Gate City Bank loves its communities,” she says, adding that the bank recently delivered water and lunches to families that had been impacted by a tornado that struck the region – one of many examples of its philanthropy. “I had never heard of a bank doing that before.”
Radil is beyond grateful to have found a career that she loves and team members who are always with her on the front lines. Every day she’s reminded of Isaiah 43:2, a Bible verse that hits close to home: "When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.”
Without a doubt, no matter what fires rage in this life – she can take the heat.
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