VALDOSTA -- Entering the competitive mortgage market in Valdosta might be daunting to some, but for 27-year mortgage veteran Becky Herndon, it's been an easy transition.

Herndon is the branch manager for Market Street Mortgage, a national company headquartered in Clearwater, Fla. with offices in 39 states -- and still growing. The company hired Herndon to open its first branch in this area.

Offering a full complement of mortgage services, Herndon opened the doors to the new branch at 2231 Bemiss Road, Suite B on June 14 and hasn't slowed down yet.

As the only mortgage professional authorized to approve VA and FHA mortgages in the Valdosta area, Herndon's services are highly sought after by Realtors eager to close deals in a shorter time, particularly for military buyers.

"One of the founders of Market Street Mortgage tried to hire me back in 1978, but at the time, I wasn't interested," she said. "I've dealt with them over the years, and I'm impressed with the company."

Herndon joined First National in 1972 for Valdosta banking legend, Don Schutt. Clarence Parker, now retired and the chairman of the Valdosta Airport Authority, was given the task in 1977 to start a mortgage department at the bank and asked that Herndon be assigned to assist him.

She worked for him for several years, learning all the aspects of the business including how to close loans. When she decided she wanted to be able to approve them as well, "Clarence encouraged me and so did Don. I didn't see any reason why I couldn't also approve a loan."

Herndon was one of the first three in the state of Georgia to be approved as an FHA underwriter in 1981, and was approved by the VA after gaining the required number of years of experience.

"You have to undergo strict audits by the VA and FHA. Any time you are working with something that is government backed, the rules and regulations and the changes can be very challenging," she said.

Herndon has been an active supporter of Moody AFB for many years, serving on a number of committees, and is the founding president of the Valdosta Mortgage Bankers Association, currently serving as the 2004-2005 president.

Having worked in a banking environment her entire career, Herndon says the change has been challenging but well worth it. She is focusing on taking care of her customers and assisting in bringing new products to the area, including a builder's revolving line of credit.

"This is a new experience for me, but it's been great."

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