ROCKINGHAM — After open-heart surgery, Mayor Pro Tem John Hutchinson has found renewed energy and founded a new business.
On Sept. 5, Hutchinson, 51, underwent an operation to replace his aortic valve following a heart infection stemming from a dental procedure.
Exactly one month after that, he started a new job as CEO of his own investment firm, Great Falls Wealth Management. He had spent 22 years with Wells Fargo before that.
“It’s surprising to me how much better I feel now than I have in a couple years’ time … It’s a much higher energy level than I’ve had in a long time,” Hutchinson said, adding that the fifth was the earliest date he planned to start at the new company. “After the surgery, it was like a brand new engine.”
The move has been germinating for several years, Hutchinson said. Though he was out of commission for what amounted to only a long weekend, working from home the following Monday — “I’m more stressed if I’m not working,” he said — taking this step may have been possible only because of the time his surgery afforded him to reflect on what he wanted out of life.
“When I went through all of it, you have time to kind of think and reflect and ask yourself, ‘What is it I really want to be doing when I get back to work? What are my goals? How do I want to be involved with the community, and how do I want to help others?’” Hutchinson said.
He said he was driven to create his own firm by a longstanding desire to capture the feeling he had in his time working with his father beginning in 1996 at Wheat, First, Butcher, Singer, a small financial advisory firm he called a “wonderful experience.”
“I just felt like we were very close to the people in the community in that time, and that was a pleasure,” he said. “I feel like we are recreating that experience that I enjoyed so much 20 years ago.”
The new firm takes its name from the Great Falls Mill because Hutchinson wanted something people would recognize as a local reference, without the use of “Sandhills” or “Pee Dee.”
All of the artwork in the firm’s suite, Suite D at 504 E. Broad Ave., is of local history that Hutchinson — as a history buff — relishes.
Above his desk is an envelope dating to the Civil War era that contained 15 shares of the Cheraw and Darlington Railroad and the Coal Fields Railroad, a totem he said connected him to the history of investment in Richmond County.
Not only does his new firm feel “cozier,” but its legal standards for service to customers are higher, a change Hutchinson described as going from doing what was “suitable” for the client versus doing what was “in the best interest” of the client.
Much work remains to be done, and Hutchinson said he had worked three 15-hour days in a row to do it, something he didn’t have the energy for before his surgery. He attributed the quick transition to his teammates at the firm, who made it easy.
Bob Wagler, who is independent of Great Falls but also is affiliated with Raymond James Financial, said he was excited for Hutchinson.
“This is an excellent fit for John,” Wagler said.
Hutchinson returned to his seat at the City Council on Oct. 9, where his fellow council members welcomed him.
“I’m delighted his health has progress so well,” Mayor Steve Morris said in a text Thursday. “I wish him much success in his new venture. I’m certain he will make his new offices an outstanding asset to downtown.”
Hutchinson said he forgot to eat lunch Thursday because of the adrenaline he got from his work now.
“I haven’t been this excited about work in a long time,” he said.
Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2674 or [email protected]