Steve Poler made a conscious decision and chose small-town life.
But that hasn’t stopped him from a successful career dealing in big-time financial markets.
Poler, 39 and a father of four, has found a niche in Montesano, both as a family man and businessman.
“I’ve had the opportunity to live in a small town and also a big city and realized I like small towns better, so I came back here after college,” said Poler, an Edward Jones financial adviser in Montesano for the past 15 years.
Now also a resident of Montesano, he’s been active there in civic life, coaching numerous youth sports teams, serving on the Montesano school board and serving on the board of directors of the nearby Satsop Business Park.
Edward Jones partner
While balancing family and community involvement, Poler has done well enough with Edward Jones, one of the largest financial investment firms in the nation, to be recently named a partner with the firm’s holding company, the Jones Financial Companies, LLLP. He is one of only 37 individuals chosen from more than 42,000 associates across the United States and Canada to join the firm’s 336 partners.
“Steve has proved to be an outstanding leader in our firm,” said Jim Weddle, managing partner of Edward Jones. “I’m very pleased to welcome him into the partnership and look forward to his future contributions to the firm.”
Poler, raised in Aberdeen, joined Edward Jones in 1998. In addition to serving as a financial adviser, he is also an Edward Jones regional leader, guiding and supporting nearly 50 financial advisers located in offices throughout southwest Washington.
“I grew up in Aberdeen, mostly, but I was born up in Everett,” he said. “I actually graduated from Federal Way High School,” noting his family moved around the region a bit as his dad worked for the Weyerhaeuser Co.
He graduated from Central Washington University with a degree in finance and accounting and returned to the Harbor, seeking work, hoping for a career as a financial adviser.
“It was something I always had interest in and thought I would enjoy. So, when I got out of college, that’s what I looked to do, but I couldn’t find any jobs at the time, and especially down here, so I went to work for Anchor Bank right out of college.”
Opened Monte branch
In two years, he worked his way into a position of financial adviser at Anchor before leaving to take a job with Edward Jones, opening the firm’s first branch in Montesano and the second branch in Grays Harbor County.
“What I did when I came to town — and what all our advisers do when they get started — is literally go and meet people face-to-face and door-to door,” Poler recounted. “It’s hard work, but for the people who do it, it’s very rewarding.”
Poler says he really appreciates the Edward Jones philosophy of focusing solely on individual investors and small-business owners. A limited partnership, the firm is owned only by its employees and retired employees and is not publicly traded.
“We’ve been fortunate to be ranked by Fortune magazine as one of the best companies to work for in America,” Poler said. “I think we’ve been in the top 15 for something like 12 years in a row (No. 8 in 2012). We have all that going for us, but we are still a partnership … It’s like investing for us. We don’t function in short-term investing because anything can happen … and we’re not here for that. Our focus is our clients and we’re going to make decisions that are in the best interest of our clients in the long run. That’s our focus. We don’t have to worry about shareholders.”
Poler’s Montesano office — staffed by himself and branch office administrators Kelly Vance and Valerie Staten and financial adviser-in-training Brandon Klinger — serves about 600 clients, he said.
Start saving early
Asked for one piece of general financial advice that can serve anybody well, Poler was quick to answer:
“Whatever the age you are, if you can get into the habit of saving something — even if it’s $25 a month or $50 a month — it’s all about that, just understanding that all this money I’m bringing home isn’t for me just today but some’s for later. And if you start early — even if it’s not a ton — the money becomes huge. I have some clients who started saving at 20 — I wasn’t able to do that — but what they’re able to do now is phenomenal. It’s more the process and getting used to the process so as you start making more money, then that process is in place and you have that ability to save.”
Poler loves the fact that he gets to work in finance and still live in Montesano with his wife, Hillary — who he met on a blind date at Central Washington — and four children: Julia, Peyton, Ava and Bode, all attending Montesano schools.
“Montesano, just generally, is a great community to live in, We really enjoy it,” he said.
Polers on school board
So much so that both Hillary and Steve have been elected to the school board there. Steve’s term began when Hillary’s ended.
“I like it,” Steve said of his current term on the school board. “I really think the schools are going in the right direction. We’ve got a dedicated staff. … Since I’ve been on the board, the superintendent has been Dan Winter, and I think he’s doing an excellent job.”
Poler cited the way students, teachers, staff and administration responded in the wake of the Rottle Field grandstand fire as an example of good leadership throughout the district.
“You really saw the leadership of the administration in how we dealt with that — the sky didn’t fall, the school’s still there. It’s obviously tough to take when you look at the tradition of the town and the tradition of the stadium … but you put it in perspective, too, and say our school’s still there, our kids are still here and we can still play football.”
Then the Montesano High football team took the ball — literally and figuratively — and ran with it to a state title.
“The football team could have easily packed it in and said, ‘This is it — we don’t get to play here anymore.’ But the fact that they overcame that and persevered and really rallied around it I think kind of shows the kind of students that we have and the dedication of the teachers and staff.”
And what of the new grandstands? Poler is confident in the rebuilding plans.
“Obviously we want to get it rebuilt, but we want to do it the right way,” he said. “If we can get done what we’ve got (in the planning stages), I think it will be good.”
Satsop Business Park board
Poler also sees more good things happening just up the road at Satsop Business Park, where he still serves on the board of directors, though he sees that governing body becoming moot soon with plans for the Port of Grays Harbor to take on the vast East County parcel’s management.
“There’s a lot of space there, plus there’s a lot of land,” Poler said. “With the Port taking it over, I just think that was a great fit. I really think it fits into their business model, and the timing worked out. … The Port is out marketing their properties a lot more than we would have had the ability to anyway and now they just have more under their umbrella to be able to market. When you look at the infrastructure up there, it’s got everything except for a rail line. It’s pretty awe-inspiring to see the size and the scale and think of the money that went into that.”
Throughout all the coaching, advising, parenting, governing and achieving, Poler balances it all with a positive attitude, especially about the community he chooses to live and work in.
“I know we’ve been through a tough time, but I do see a lot of opportunity in Grays Harbor,” he said. “I think there are good things going on here.”
Thanks to dedicated people like Steve Poler.
David Haerle, a Daily World writer, can be reached at 537-3928, or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org