WASHINGTON, D.C.  – It took a Congressional hearing for Park National Bank owner Mike Kelly to find his public voice.

And just after the attention-resistant banker did start respectfully speaking up last Thursday morning in Washington D.C., his cheering section from the West Side and Oak Park met up with him to suggest a next step.

“We’re bold. We’re here. We’re demanding accountability for what happened, and we’re demanding a reversal,” added Beth Harvey, owner of Harvey House Bed & Breakfast in Oak Park, to Kelly, looking him straight in the eye.

In a room at the Rayburn House Office Building that was on loan Thursday afternoon from U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, Harvey coached her fellow bus riders ¡ª and Kelly, “Say it: Right the wrong.”

“Right the wrong. Right the wrong,” chanted dozens of members of the grassroots Coalition to Save Community Banking as a jaw-dropped Kelly looked to his wife, Jana, his FBOP Corp. colleague Jack Crowe and the prayer meeting they’d found themselves in.

“Now, Mike, I have never seen one white man bring together so many black and white folks,” Jacqueline Reed, executive director of Westside Health Authority said, calling Kelly over for a group photo following his testimony. Everyone with a camera jostled back and forth to snap their own pictures, too.

“I am overwhelmed. Thank you. Thank you for being here. Thank you for taking the bus to be here,” Kelly said in a whirlwind of hugs, pats on the back, and observant conversations, even with the press.

Plain talk in Room 2247, aka the chamber of Oversight and Government Reform, flowed from everyone. Jackie Leavy, a veteran community organizer steering the coalition in D.C., walked up, shook Kelly’s hand, and said, “I’ve lived in Oak Park 25 years and I’d never met you. But for all you’ve done, and for as big as Park National’s impact is, at the end of the day, this is not about Park National. This is about us. It’s about whether we get a fair shake.”

A lot got said Thursday in Washington. Kelly, who started his testimony before the House finances subcommittee so timidly he had to give his name three times, wound up his time on the panel having boldly covered several points:

n He donated 28 percent of the profits of his privately held bank to community causes. That compares with less than 1 percent by the publicly held U. S. Bank.

n He didn’t get promised government help in the form of TARP funds ¡ª twice.

n He didn’t get one more week to stave off a takeover.

“I believe U.S. Bank was already lined up and that was it,” Kelly said in answering the last question.

In the written testimony that he filed, a conclusion shows he’s proud of the standard he set and that he was able to set out a challenge: “To whom much is given, much is expected.”

Expectations are running high among the local group still pinching themselves that they scored a hearing on Capitol Hill because of the stink they made about a community loss. In his testimony on behalf of the coalition, Steve McCullough, CEO of Bethel New Life, was clear in asking for Congressional action to rescind the takeover of Kelly’s banks.

In one follow-up question to Kelly, a subcommittee member used the phrase “unring the bell.”

In the testimony that Oak Park Village President David Pope filed in writing, he said: “We had a bank that cared, truly cared, about Main Street; about our shops, about our neighborhoods, about our schools, about our parents and our children, and about us. The FDIC has taken that away from us. We hope that you will help to give it back.”

Harvey, who says she’s in business only because of a loan that Kelly shepherded through Park National seven years ago, was the last one aboard the bus for the return trip to Chicago. She’d gone to the call on Nancy Pelosi’s office with members of the coalition who were flying home. Once onboard the bus again, she got back to running her bed-and-breakfast’s reservation system from her iPhone.

“When something’s important, you work it. You do what you have to do,” she said.

“We began a conversation about the plight of community banking in this country.”

Neil Bullock
COO, Bethel New Life
Oak Parker who rode on the bus

“Going there put a face and a meaning behind the seizure. We demonstrated that these actions have consequences.”

Steve McCullough
CEO, Bethel New Life, who spoke for the coalition at the hearing

“If we hadn’t advocated for this hearing, the FBOP story would have been swept under the rug. Now, we have a chance to influence the debate over what kind of financial industry reforms and economic stimulus are really needed on Main Street.”

Jackie Leavy 
Coalition organizer from Oak Park who flew to D.C. for the hearing

“We showed we had a tremendous collaborative group in terms of talent and cooperation.”

Bob Vondrasek South Austin Coalition Community Council

“We added to the groundswell of popular outrage that Main Street isn’t getting what it needs to recover.”

Peg Strobel
Coalition member from Oak who flew to D.C. for the hearing

“Every single person sitting in that room understood the outrage.”

Bobbie Raymond
Coalition member from Oak who flew to D.C. for the hearing

“Democrats and Republicans looking at a single situation not only had a lot of questions going into the hearing, when they were done, they had a lot more questions. They were engaged. I think they heard us.”

Rob Baren
Chief of staff, State Sen. Don Harmon

“The fact that the committee asked for more information ¡ª that demonstrates genuine interest in what was presented.”

Don Harmon
Illinois state senator, D-39th assigned his chief of staff to help coalition prepare