Gonzalez Emerges As Top Candidate For NCUA Post

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A little-known community development banker currently working as a Bush administration appointee has emerged as the leading candidate to succeed NCUA Chairman Dennis Dollar, whose six-year term on the NCUA board expired last month.

Gilbert Gonzalez, Jr., 47, a Texan and currently Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development at the Department of Agriculture, is considered the favorite among three candidates being considered for the NCUA post, several sources familiar with the process confirmed.

The other two, Nancy Usera, a popular and well-connected credit union activist and vice president at Alaska USA FCU, and Arizona Banking Commissioner Richard Houseworth, are considered less likely, because Usera's appointment would create the first all-female NCUA board, and because Houseworth, though nominated by the Bush administration to the FDIC board, is a Democrat.

Gonzalez, appointed to the Agriculture Department by the Bush administration, has worked with NCUA on several initiatives connected with Dollar's "Access Across America" program, and has met with Dollar on two recent occasions to demonstrate his interest in the job, the sources said. Gonzalez was the Agriculture Department's representative at an NCUA conference in El Paso last year and was signee to an inter-agency protocol on Access Across America.

Gonzalez did not return phone calls to his office last week seeking comment. But in an e-mail response, Gonzalez confirmed that he has had discussions with Dollar and Board Member JoAnn Johnson about the position, but said it would be "inappropriate and premature to discuss any presidential appointment."

Candidate's Background

Gonzalez may be considered a banker by profession, as he has worked for First Gibraltar Bank and the Money Store Investment Corp., but his main interests apparently lie in community development finance, an area in which credit unions are deeply involved. "He's not a bank president or a bank officer," said one source who knows Gonzalez.

He was a founding member of the San Antonio Business Development Fund, a multi-bank community development corporation, and has been active in banking, housing finance, and economic development in Texas since 1984. He has served on several boards, including the San Antonio Enterprise Community Commission, Texas Mezzanine Fund, Fannie Mae Advisory Council, and Texas Community Development Financial Institution Council.

Johnson Would Be Chairman

If Gonzalez is nominated by the White House he must still undergo an extensive background check, because the background checks for presidential appointees are more thorough than those for so-called Schedule C appointments, the job in which he currently serves.

All NCUA Board appointees must be confirmed by the Senate. Dollar is expected to continue to serve as a holdover until a successor is confirmed.

After filling Dollar's seat, the White House is expected to designate current NCUA Vice Chair Johnson as the chair of the three-member panel.

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