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Little Rock, Ark. – Southern Bancorp Community Partners CEO Dominik Mjartan today announced two new leadership promotions within Southern Bancorp Community Partners (SBCP), the development finance affiliate of Southern Bancorp.  Director Dr. Karama Neal has been named Chief Operating Officer, and Vice President of Accounting Mary Bell has been promoted to Vice President and Director of Finance.

“Karama has been a key leader in helping Southern create economic opportunities for thousands of people in Arkansas and Mississippi.  With her impressive career accomplishments and unwavering commitment to our mission, she brings a unique perspective and capacity to grow the impact of our programs,” said Mjartan. “SBCP has a long history of helping individuals and families acquire the tools to improve their net worth through homeownership, entrepreneurship and savings, and much of the success of those efforts in recent years is can be attributed to Karama.  As we grow the scope and scale of our financial services, Karama’s experience and capacity to manage this growth will be a tremendous asset.”

As SBCP Director, Karama has managed the organization’s financial development programs, public policy and workforce development efforts since joining the organization in 2009. Under her leadership, SBCP has seen significant improvements in the effectiveness of its family economic security programs. In her new role, she will continue to increase the reach of all SBCP programs. She received her undergraduate degree in biology at Swarthmore College and later earned her doctorate in genetics from Emory University and master’s degree in bioethics from Loyola University in Chicago. She has also completed the executive education in impact investing course at the University of Oxford (UK).

“SBCP is well positioned to increase both the scale and impact of our financial development services,” said Neal. “We have set ambitious goals to build economic opportunity and net worth in the communities we serve.  We will expand our focus on savings, home ownership and entrepreneurship while continuing to partner with people and communities as they strive to reach their goals. I am proud to contribute to Southern’s vision of increased opportunity in rural America.”

Mary Bell first joined the Southern organization in 1988. Over her 27 years of service, she has risen through the ranks from positions ranging from Office Administrator and Office Manager to Senior Accountant and most recently Vice President of Accounting where she has been responsible for all accounting and compliance for SBCP. She received her bachelor’s degree in accounting from Henderson State University.

“For nearly thirty years, Mary has dedicated her career to helping people improve their lives.  During that time, Mary has successfully ensured fiscal integrity of a complex social enterprise like SBCP.  As we prepare for additional growth, we are grateful to be able to rely on Mary to help us sustainably grow not just our balance sheet but our impact,” said Mjartan. “As SBCP’s longest serving employee, she has been a firsthand witness to the organization’s birth and growth, which gives her a crucial perspective for helping chart our long term trajectory. I’m grateful for her service and excited to welcome her to this new leadership position.”

Southern Bancorp, Inc., a bank holding company; Southern Bancorp Community Partners, a development finance and lending organization; and Southern Bancorp Bank, one of America’s largest rural development banks were founded in 1986 by then Arkansas Governor and First Lady Bill and Hillary Clinton, Walmart Chair Rob Walton, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and others who were concerned about the economic decline of rural Arkansas. All three entities are U.S. Treasury certified Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) collectively known as “Southern.” With $1.1 billion in assets, 80,000 customers at its 39 branches in Arkansas and Mississippi, Southern invests in people and businesses in rural communities; empowers them to improve their lives; and helps them transform their communities.  On the web at &