Stafford plans to retire

Published 8:00 am Friday, December 1, 2023

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Stafford retires

Jay A. Stafford

Benchmark Bankshares, Inc. (BMBN), the Kenbridge-based holding company for Benchmark Community Bank, has announced the pending retirement of Jay A. Stafford, President of the Company, and Chief Executive Officer of both the Company and the Bank, effective Dec. 31, 2023. Stafford will also retire as a member of the Boards of Directors for both the Company and the Bank on that date.

“It has been an honor to have spent my entire banking career at Benchmark Community Bank,” Stafford said. “I’ve had a truly fortunate and unique experience of working for one bank for over 35 years. I take pride in having been part of Benchmark’s growth and consistently strong financial performance, while contributing to growing a bank from two branches with $30MM in assets to seventeen branches with over $1B in assets.” 

E. Neil Burke, Executive Vice President/Chief Financial Officer of the Bank, and Assistant Secretary/ Treasurer of the Company has been appointed to succeed Stafford. Burke joined Benchmark in 1999 as a Branch Officer. A South Hill native and current resident, Burke has served in his current position since April 2017, having previously served nine years as Senior Vice President/Chief Financial Officer.

In September, Elizabeth T. (Beth) Beale joined Benchmark as Executive Vice President to succeed Burke as Chief Financial Officer (CFO). A 26-year veteran of the financial industry, Beale most recently served since July 2019 as Executive Vice President/Chief Financial Officer for Old Point National Bank, headquartered in Hampton, Virginia. Additionally, Beale served 15 years as Executive Vice President/Chief Financial Officer for Citizens National Bank, Windsor, Virginia, prior to its 2018 acquisition by Old Point. Beale is a Certified Public Accountant and holds her B.S. in Accounting from Elon University in North Carolina. She has been a member of the Virginia Bankers Association’s CFO Committee since 2010 and served as past Chair. Beale also serves on the board of the Virginia Bankers Association Benefits Corporation.


Neil Burke received his undergraduate education from Bridgewater College where he graduated in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. In 2001, he received his Master of Business Administration from Syracuse University, before completing the American Banking Association’s Stonier Graduate School of Banking in 2004. In 2006, he completed the University of South Carolina’s Graduate School of Bank Investments and Financial Management program.

On behalf of Benchmark, Burke serves on the Virginia Bankers Association’s CFO Committee, presiding as Chair since 2021. He is also currently serving on the GO Virginia Region 3 Project Review Committee.

“We are pleased that Neil has agreed to succeed Jay,” Lail continued. “Neil has a deep knowledge and understanding of the Bank. This combined with his financial insight, positions Benchmark well for the future. As they have for the past 20 years, Jay and Neil have been working over the past months to affect a seamless transition. The Board of Directors looks forward to working with Neil and his team to continue the success Benchmark has enjoyed.”

Of his appointment, Burke said, “I am so appreciative to the Board of Directors for this opportunity and to Jay for his mentorship over the years. The banking industry has changed significantly in the past 20 years, and I look forward to working with our customers and employees to incorporate time-tested financial practices with innovative technology that allows us to better serve our markets while staying true to who we are as a traditional community bank.”