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A.J. Antongiovanni of Mission Bank.

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Photo courtesy of Mission Bank

Richard Fanucchi of Mission Bank.

Mission Bank announced Thursday that its top executive will step down in June to make way for a 34-year-old Garces Memorial High School graduate who since 2011 has served as president of the Bakersfield-based financial institution.

Under a previously announced leadership transition, CEO Richard Fanucchi, 67, is expected to take on a part-time business development role at Mission. He has agreed to remain on the board of directors of the bank and its holding company, Mission Bancorp.

Incoming CEO Andrew Joseph "A.J." Antongiovanni has been groomed for the top job for at least two years.

"Richard is a first-class banker, and a first-class person. I am fortunate to have him as my mentor," Antongiovanni said in a news release. "He has built a strong foundation which positions the bank well for continued growth and success for its customers, team members and shareholders."

Fanucchi, Mission's CEO since 2000, said in the same release that he looks forward to his new role connecting people to the financial world.

"I'm a numbers guy," he stated. "I enjoy working with business people in this very way."

Antongiovanni started in banking with Wells Fargo in San Francisco after earning a bachelor's degree in business administration with a concentration in financial services at St. Mary's College of California. In 2003, he joined Mission Bank as a relationship manager, and since then he has worked as manager of its Shafter branch, senior vice president of operations and technology, and chief operations officer.

Bank chairman Arnold T. Cattani thanked Fanucchi and expressed support for Antongiovanni in Thursday's release.

"Richard is probably the best lender in (the) San Joaquin Valley. He ate, drank and slept with Mission Bank on his mind," Cattani said. "He is the reason the bank has done so extremely well."

The leadership transition comes at an important time for Mission. It recently completed a merger with another Kern County-based community bank, Mojave Desert Bank. That move added four branches -- in Mojave, Ridgecrest, Lancaster and Helendale -- to Mission's network of three branches in Bakersfield, Greenfield and Shafter.

Mission has performed well in recent years despite the recession and the 2009 failure of what for years was Bakersfield's only other locally based bank, San Joaquin Bank.

Last year Mission received its eighth consecutive "Super Premium Performing" rating from Findley Reports on Financial Institutions, an industry monitor. It was the only Kern-based bank to earn the rating that year.