Hood Nominated For NCUA Board

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In what amounts to a surprise nomination, the White House said last week that President Bush plans to nominate Rodney E. Hood, an executive in the Department of Agriculture, to the vacant seat on the three-person NCUA Board.

Hood, who is a relative unknown in the credit union movement, is the Agricultural Department's associate administrator for Rural Housing Services, the largest direct lender of loans in the federal government. He works under Gilbert Gonzalez, the Department's under secretary for rural development, who lobbied for and was considered the frontrunner for the same NCUA Board seat until he abruptly withdrew his name in 2003.

"It looks like it's (the Agricultural Department) kind of an incubator for NCUA," quipped NCUA Board member Deborah Matz, herself a former executive at the Agriculture Department before coming to NCUA.

The appointment of Hood comes as the regulatory and policymaking process at NCUA, where the NCUA board is populated by one Republican and one Democrat, has slowed dramatically. Chairman JoAnn Johnson welcomed the choice of Hood, saying "The president has made an outstanding selection in Rodney Hood for the NCUA board. Rodney has a vast array of experience in financial services and affordable housing, which will be an asset to the NCUA and America's credit unions. Rodney understands the issues facing the nation's credit unions and the need for access to affordable financial services in communities across the country."

The credit union lobby, which follows the nominating process closely, was taken by surprise by the selection of Hood, who has a steep background in community banking. "Honestly, we don't know much about him," said one credit union lobbyist who did not want to be identified.

John McKechnie, chief lobbyist for CUNA, said he has met Hood at Washington social events and considers him a strong candidate. "He appears to be bright and capable. I think he's going to be up to the job," said McKechnie.

Hood did not return phone calls from The Credit Union Journal last week.

Former NCUA Chairman Dennis Dollar, now a credit union consultant based in Birmingham, Ala., said he met Hood several times at inter-agency events and thinks he will be a good fit in the NCUA board seat he used to occupy, though Dollar expressed reservations that the candidate does not have any credit union experience. Dollar said he was impressed by the variety of interests of Hood, who is writing a book on opera, is an outdoorsman, and is active politically as a Republican. "He's a fascinating mix and he's going to be a good NCUA board member," said Dollar, who referred to Hood as an "opera-loving, duck-hunting, North Carolina African-American conservative Republican, who's worked in community development banking."

Common Ground

Though Hood has a background as a banker, Dollar cautioned that this does not mean he's an anti-credit union activist. His background, rather, is in community development banking, something with which he has common ground with credit unions, explained Dollar.

In fact, before going to Washington in 2004, Hood worked as Community Reinvestment Act officer for Bank of America and community development lending manager for Wells Fargo. He also served on the Wells Fargo Housing Foundation Board where he managed the foundation's relationships with non-profit housing agencies, something with which Matz, chairman of the non-profit NeighborWorks housing foundation, will empathize.

If confirmed by the Senate, Hood would serve the four years remaining on the six-year term in that seat. But it's not clear whether the White House will wait for the lengthy confirmation process or seat him over the next few weeks as a recess appointee.

Several observers expect Hood to be named as a recess appointee, probably during the Senate's Memorial Day Recess. If that happens, the White House could then nominate him to the full six-year term opening up when the lone Democrat on the NCUA Board, Deborah Matz, has her term expire in August. "I think they're going to recess him, then flip him to the full-term," one Washington source told The Credit Union Journal. That would allow the White House to pair the Republican Hood with a Democrat to ease the way to Senate confirmation and allow the Republican Hood to serve the longer term.

Hood is a native of Charlotte, N.C., and a graduate of the University of North Carolina.

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