Dollar Can Unpack; NCUA Chair Nominee Withdraws His Name

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The leading candidate to succeed NCUA Chairman Dennis Dollar on the NCUA Board withdrew his name from consideration last week, sending the search to fill out the three-member panel back to square one.

Gilbert Gonzalez, Jr., currently Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development at the Department of Agriculture and who has been actively seeking the NCUA job, said he asked the White House to eliminate him from the search so he could continue his work at the Agriculture Department.

"I've been here for two years and there's been some increasing roles and responsibilities here, in terms of the minority home ownership program and the rural business development program, that I want to see through," said Gonzalez.

As a result, Dollar, whose six-year term on the NCUA Board expired last April, told the White House he will continue to serve, at least through the first quarter of 2004. "This will postpone any decision I make regarding any opportunities I might pursue," Dollar said of his plans for a post-NCUA career.

The decision by Gonzalez, who helped foster a partnership between the Agriculture Department with NCUA on certain programs, leaves a big hole in the search for a Dollar successor. That's because any candidate nominated to succeed Dollar must go through a multi-month background check before he or she is formally nominated, then go through the Senate confirmation process before being confirmed by the full Senate. If that process runs into next spring, then politics could intervene to slow or even derail a new candidate's confirmation.

"The longer it goes into next year, the more likely the possibility that politics will start to play a role," said one observer knowledgeable about the process.

As of last week there was no news about potential candidates for the Dollar seat. Gonzalez said the length of the nomination process-the White House has been actively looking into his candidacy for more than six months-played a role in his decision to withdraw his candidacy. "That was another big part of it. I had to make plans, in terms of what I wanted to do here," said Gonzalez. He denied there is anything in his background that may have delayed completion of the background check and prevented the White House from formally sending his nomination to the Senate.

In an arcane arrangement, any additional time Dollar serves beyond his six-year term is subtracted from the six-years of his successor, as NCUA Board terms start and finish at a set date.

Dollar, a Republican, was nominated to the NCUA Board by Democratic President Bill Clinton and sworn in October 1997, then designated chairman by Republican President George W. Bush a week after Bush was sworn in February 2001.

The NCUA Board is bipartisan by law and is traditionally made up of two members from the party of the President, with the third typically from the opposition party. With Vice Chair JoAnn Johnson a Republican and the third Board member, Deborah Matz, a Democrat, the successor to Dollar will most likely be Republican.

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