Sean Haluska recently was named Carroll market president at the expanding Availa Bank. (Photo by Caitlin Yamada)
Sean Haluska recently was named Carroll market president at the expanding Availa Bank. (Photo by Caitlin Yamada)

August 9, 2019

Sean Haluska, a product of Carroll High School and Iowa State University who already has 10 years of banking experience at age 32, took the helm as Carroll market president at the expanding Availa Bank on July 1.

Haluska moved up on the leadership team for Availa, headed by CEO and president Jeff Scharfenkamp and board chairman Tom Gronstal, both active figures in local development and government for decades.

“Early on, Sean was somebody who had a hunger to learn,” Scharfenkamp said in an interview. “He was the type of person who was also self-motivated to seek information outside. He has a great ability to talk to people.”

Scharfenkamp said that even with technological advances, banking remains a people business.

“Without a doubt,” he said. “As a lender, you underwrite loan applications and you ask, ‘Is this a good deal that works? Should we do this loan?’ When you get to the next level, now you are in the business of underwriting people.”

Haluska cultivated strong team harmony as a senior lender, Scharfenkamp said.

“Don’t be fooled by his young age of 32,” Scharfenkamp said. “He’s earned the respect of the people around him. He has the support of the staff.”

For his part, Haluska said he enjoys the day-to-day changes in the business.

“No day in here is the same,” Haluska said. “You get to see the ups and downs of the economy, and you get to help people. For me, it’s been rewarding to see people come in with an idea and to be able to watch people grow that business and be successful.”

Carroll-based Availa Bank, a financial institution with roots reaching into the earliest days of European settlement here in the 1870s, this year purchased three more bank locations, a move that allows the growing former Carroll County State Bank to cross the $1 billion asset threshold and further expand its geographic territory beyond rural Iowa into Sioux City and the Des Moines area.

“It’s been a fantastic place to work,” Haluska said. “We are a bank that’s very community focused, a bank that’s very community driven (that gives) back to the community.”

Availa Bank has 18 branches, stretching from Sioux City to Ankeny with Carroll as its base of operations, and 175 employees.

“I think being a community-focused and customer-focused organization is the benefit we have,” Scharfenkamp said. “We still are connected to our roots. We know how to interact in Carroll and Coon Rapids and other rural communities. That will be our secret to success in new communities as well.”

Haluska said Scharfenkamp serves as an excellent mentor.

“I’m excited about the opportunity and very thankful for the opportunity as well,” Haluska said. “I’ve learned a lot from Jeff. I’ve kind of learned everything that I know right now about banking and continue to learn a lot from him. He’s been a great leader for me to look up to.”

Haluska started as a loan officer with Availa in 2009 (when the bank operated as Carroll County State Bank).

Born in Atlantic, he spent a few years in Adair, where his dad, Steve, worked as an educator.

He graduated from Carroll High School, where his dad served as principal, and graduated from Iowa State University, where he played basketball for the Cyclones — joining his wife Shellie, also a CHS alum and a financial advisor with Edward Jones in Carroll, in the pursuit of college hoop dreams. Shellie Haluska played for the ISU women’s basketball team.

The couple have three children: Tenley, 5; Teagan, 2: and Tristyn, a newborn.

“The stars aligned perfectly for Shellie and I to get back here,” Sean Haluska said.

Haluska’s family remains in Iowa with his dad and mom, Kim, living in Decorah, where Steve is the principal at St. Benedict Catholic School, a K-8 Catholic institution.

Sean’s brother Adam is a financial advisor in Iowa City, and another brother, Blake, lives in North Liberty and works in medical sales.