Inspired Woman Magazine

Gretchen Stenehjem: First International Bank & Trust

Photo credit: Sanford Health

Gretchen Kay Stenehjem is from Watford City.  She has a degree in Elementary Education with a minor in Reading Disabilities from Mankato State University in Minnesota. She taught second and third grade students in Alexandria, Minnesota before she married her husband, Steve, and moved to Watford City where she became involved in his third generation family-owned bank.  Gretchen has contributed to the business in multiple aspects. She has four adult children and is blessed with four grandchildren. 

Describe what you do: I assist in overseeing all the building projects for First International Bank & Trust. We just opened our 28th location. I help design the buildings and curate finishes, furnishings, and artwork for every new construction or remodeling project we undertake. I also work with the marketing department, to promote any special events, assist with public relations, and oversee the Heritage Club. In addition to my duties at the bank, I oversee our restaurants, Outlaws’ Bar & Grill, JL Beers, Wild Cow Coffee & Cream, and Stonehome Brewery. 

What is one of the biggest obstacles in your work? Understanding construction terms and learning how to communicate expectations with multiple contractors was initially my greatest challenge. I had to educate myself on a glossary of construction terms to have productive conversations with builders and vendors.

Who have been your greatest supporters and/or mentors? My greatest supporter is my husband, Steve. He is my rock, my confidant, the person I ask for advice in good times and bad. The mentors or people I have looked up in my life are my mom, May, who is amazing at age 94. She is happy, cheerful, and musically talented. My mother-in-law, Judy, was a beautiful lady. She taught me to be a gracious hostess and a few ropes to being a banking wife. Princess Diana is a woman I greatly admire. We were almost the same age, married a year apart, and I felt a connection with her. I loved the way she walked with Kings and Queens but kept the common touch. 

What is the best part of your work? The best part of my day is working with a gal who oversees the building projects with me; I admire her natural talent and her eye for design. I have learned a great deal from her and her gift for architecture.

If you could have a billboard anywhere with anything on it delivering a message to masses of people, what would it say and why? “Life is a party, enjoy it!” 


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