Columbia CEO Melanie Dressel dies at age 64

  • She has been on the job as CEO at Columbia for 14 years
  • Search for a successor


( — Tacoma, Washington, February 21, 2017 — Melanie Dressel, chief executive of Columbia, has died. Columbia announced her death on Tuesday, February 21, 2017. Melanie J. Dressel has been on the job as Chief Executive Officer at Columbia Banking System, Inc. for 14 years. She died at age 64.

Columbia will undertake a search for a successor.

“Died suddenly”

Columbia said: “Columbia Banking System … is saddened to announce today that its President and Chief Executive Officer, Melanie J. Dressel, died suddenly late Sunday.”

Chaired by William Weyerhaeuser

Columbia Banking System, Inc. is chaired by William Weyerhaeuser.

On the job as CEO since 2003

Melanie J. Dressel served as the Chief Executive Officer of Columbia Banking System Inc. since February 2003 and also its President since January 2000.

Dressel was part of the original team that founded Columbia Bank in 1993 and helped to create a distinct style of banking based on community ties and community involvement.

Under her leadership, the Bank grew from one branch to over 140 in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

Dressel had been the Chairman of the Board for Puget Sound Energy Inc. and Puget Energy Inc. since January 2015.

She served as a Director of the American Bankers Association and as a board member of the Executive Council for a Greater Tacoma, The Washington Bankers Association, Washington Roundtable, the Arts Fund and the Washington State Historical Society among many other organizations.

She has been named as one of the 25 Most Powerful Women in Banking by American Banker Magazine seven times.

Dressel is survived by her husband, Robert Dressel, her son Robert Dressel III and his wife Kara, her son Brent Dressel and his wife Sophia, and her two grandchildren.

Search for a successor

“The Board of Directors expects to make further announcements regarding the plan for succession in the coming days,” Columbia said.

“It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of my friend and colleague Melanie Dressel”

William Weyerhaeuser, Chairman of the Board of Columbia, said: “It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of my friend and colleague Melanie Dressel. Melanie had served as our Chief Executive Officer since 2003, and was also a member of our Board of Directors.  Under her tireless leadership, Columbia grew to be widely recognized as one of the best regional community banks in the country, and has been continually acknowledged as one of the best workplaces in the Northwest. Melanie has made an indelible mark on who we are today and we will keep her legacy of great service, personal relationships and outstanding stewardship alive and well.  Another hallmark of her leadership was building a great and deep bench of senior management to ensure that our guiding principles will remain intact and that our vision to build an unparalleled banking franchise will continue.”

Columbia Banking System, Inc.: $2.4 billion market value

Columbia Banking System, Inc. is listed on Nasdaq in New York under the symbol “COLB” and has a market capitalization of about $2.4 billion. Columbia Banking System, Inc. is a member of the Russell 2000 index.

management-change at a glance
Who leaves
Name Melanie J. Dressel (64)
Position Chief Executive Officer
Company Columbia Banking System, Inc.
Action “died suddenly”
When February 19, 2017
Days remaining
Reason died
Tenure 14 years
Push-out Score*
Future position
Who takes over
Previous position
Previous company
Announcement date February 21, 2017



On February 22, 2017, Columbia Banking System announced that Hadley S. Robbins, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Columbia, has been appointed Interim Chief Executive Officer of Columbia and its wholly owned subsidiary, Columbia State Bank, following the unexpected passing of Melanie J. Dressel on Sunday, February 19th.

“Hadley has more than 35 years of experience in community banking and has been responsible for Columbia’s operations and customer-facing business lines since 2014. We are fortunate to be able to call upon him, as he has worked closely with the entire executive leadership team at Columbia for several years,” said William Weyerhaeuser, Chairman of the Board of Columbia.

As part of the implementation of the succession planning process, the Board of Directors of Columbia intends to conduct a search for a permanent Chief Executive Officer, in which both internal and external candidates will be considered.

Robbins was appointed Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Columbia in March 2014, with responsibility for Columbia’s customer-facing business lines, including Commercial Banking, Retail Banking and Wealth Management.

His experience includes executive or senior management positions with West Coast Bancorp, Wells Fargo Bank, Pacific Northwest Bank, Bank of the Northwest and First Interstate Bank.

He holds an MBA from the University of Oregon and a BS in Business Administration from Lewis and Clark College.