39 Under 39, 2022 Edition

Kiley Keatts, Baker Boyer Bank

Kiley Keatts, 28, has earned major commendations at Baker Boyer Bank since assuming the role of Human Resources Coordinator in the fall of 2020.

Only months earlier, the COVID-19 pandemic had turned life in Walla Walla upside down. Just about everything still faced uncertainty when Keatts transitioned from the Baker Boyer community banking department to human resources.

But she says it was “the best decision I’ve made.”

Levi Waggoner, Baker Boyer vice president and human resources director, agrees.

“Since joining Baker Boyer’s human resources department, she has taken on leadership roles in recruiting, onboarding, benefits administration and more, bringing new ideas and improvements that have made us better able to serve our internal and external clients,” Waggoner said. “Her energy and positivity never waver, and when there’s a new project or task that needs to be done, no matter how great or small, she is invariably the first to volunteer.

“All that said, Kiley has met the challenge of taking on a new role in human resources in the midst of a global pandemic. When many would struggle to simply maintain the status quo, Kiley has not only continued to get things done, she has consistently contributed and implemented new ideas for doing things better. Most importantly, everything she does is done with a warmth, kindness and genuine care that lifts the spirits of all she comes in contact with.”

Keatts admits she had never considered human resources as a potential career.

“My journey to my current career was not straightforward,” Keatts said. “I started working at a nonprofit out of college and then when I made the move to Walla Walla in 2018, I ended up in the wine industry and eventually transitioned into community banking at Baker Boyer.”

But for Keatts, who grew up in a family with a long history of service-oriented careers, human resources feels natural.

Her main focus at Baker Boyer has been benefits administration and recruiting, “but really, at the end of the day my job and goal is always to make our employees’ lives better and easier,” she said.

Her growth in the role has been easy to see.

“She is a true servant leader whose optimism and positivity are equally matched by her humility and willingness to do whatever is necessary to meet the needs of those she works with and serves,” Waggoner said. “She actively seeks out challenges, always viewing them as opportunities for growth.

“She is a swift learner who identified her aptitude for human resources and has taken every opportunity to develop her knowledge and abilities to support her teams and fill human resource needs, even when she was in roles that didn’t require it.”

Working in human resources has given Keatts the opportunity to help people, her favorite part of the job. The pandemic and the limitations it has often forced presented obstacles along the way, but Keatts is quick to recognize she has been part of a hard-working staff that together finds solutions.

“The pandemic has created some unique challenges — namely, doing everything remotely and meeting with people over video calls,” Keatts said. “In human resources, it’s our job to connect with people and help them in the best way that we can, and sometimes doing that remotely presented some difficulties that wouldn’t have been an issue in person.

“Our team has been able to overcome and adapt to those challenges and continues to make it work.”

Keatts feels obstacles only strengthen the Baker Boyer’s human resources staff.

“I cannot say enough things about how amazing my team is and how welcome they made me feel even though we could only connect through video calls,” she said. “I started in HR in the middle of the pandemic when we were doing everything remotely. Just as I had mentioned that it’s been difficult to connect with our employees online, it’s also created some unique challenges for the Human Resources team. But I truly feel like I got to know them online.

“Returning back to work in person has felt like we never skipped a beat.”

More than a year of HR now under her belt, Keatts is in it for the long run.

“Walla Walla is the place that I’ve chosen to settle and so in the next five years I plan to continue to grow in my family and career,” Keatts said. “I’m currently in the process of gathering information to help me prepare to become a SHRM Certified Professional to grow my career.”

Since moving here in 2018, she has loved being part of the Walla Walla community together with her husband, Erick, and their daughter, Quinn (along with their two dogs, Bandit, a lab-mix, and Arrow, a blue heeler).

“I consider myself someone who believes strongly in impacting our community positively and helping it grow for the better, and I believe anyone is an asset that contributes to that growth,” Keatts said “I feel that since moving here, I’ve grown exponentially, and whether it’s been in starting a family or in my career, I feel like every person I’ve worked with closely has helped me become a better person in all parts of my life.”

Hector del Castillo can be reached at hectordelcastillo@wwub.com or 509-526-8317.

Hector writes stories about local sports, helps produce the daily section and updates the web site. A lifelong sports nut having grown up in Maryland, he joined the U-B with more than 15 years experience in journalism.

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