Ezra Eckhardt, chief operating officer for Sterling Financial Corporation (NASDAQ: STSA) and president of its subsidiaries, Sterling Bank and Sonoma Bank, was named Washington state’s chief operating officer of the year at Seattle Business magazine’s inaugural 2013 Executive Excellence Awards dinner. The event was hosted last night at the Seattle Four Seasons Hotel and was created to recognize exceptional senior executives and inspirational leaders in Washington state. Eckhardt received this recognition for his industry leadership and community involvement. As chief operating officer, Eckhardt oversees the branch operations, residential mortgage lending, product management, customer relations and administrative functions for Sterling, Washington state’s largest financial institution and one of the country’s leading community banks. Eckhardt became chief operating officer in 2009 and reports to Sterling CEO Greg Seibly. “Ezra’s natural leadership and understanding of banking operations were instrumental during Sterling Bank’s recent turn towards profitable growth and financial stability. His commitment to Sterling is an inspiration to all of us,” Seibly said. “This award is also a reflection of the progress and momentum Sterling has made over the past year and I could not be more pleased to see him receive such a deserved recognition as COO of the Year.” Eckhardt has more than 20 years of banking, business and military leadership experience, including previous management roles at Microsoft and Honeywell. He is a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and earned his master of business administration from Gonzaga University. He serves on the board of the directors of Gonzaga Preparatory School and is a member of the Greater Spokane Incorporated Executive Committee. Eckhardt and his family reside in Spokane, Wash. About Sterling BankSterling Savings Bank, the principal operating subsidiary of Sterling Financial Corporation (NASDAQ:STSA) of Spokane, Washington, is a Washington state chartered and federally insured commercial bank. Sterling Savings Bank does business as Sterling Bank and, in California, Sonoma Bank. Sterling offers banking products and services, mortgage lending, and trust and investment products to individuals, small businesses, corporations and other commercial organizations. As of December 31, 2012, Sterling had assets of $9.24 billion and operated depository branches in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and California. Visit Sterling’s website at www.bankwithsterling.com.