Colorado's top bank regulator will become the executive director of the Independent Bankers of Colorado next year.

Barbara Walker, who will resign at the end of the month after five and a half years as bank commissioner, will replace James P. Thomas Jan. 1. Mr. Thomas is retiring after 22 years at the helm of the Independent Bankers. Ms. Walker, an attorney, will spend the interim period with a Denver law firm.

The Independent Bankers of Colorado, based in Denver, represents 143 institutions, ranging in asset size from $3 billion to $10 million. Mr. Thomas said his group began an extensive search for his replacement last October and is happy with its choice.

"Barbara has a very unusual personality, she's well known in the state and very highly regarded," Mr. Thomas said. "I think it's very fortunate for us that she was willing and able to make the change. There were a lot of people considered, but she stood out."

Mr. Thomas said a factor in Ms. Walker's favor was her support of the dual banking system, which enables state banking departments to set standards different from those of federal regulators. With more than half of the trade group's members being state-chartered banks, the issue is significant.

"There are less regulatory burdens at the state level," Mr. Thomas said. "States can be trend-setters as a result."

Ms. Walker said the decision to move to the lobbying group wasn't an easy one.

"It was a tough move for me in the sense that I really believe in what I have done here as the state banking commissioner," she said. "I was able to take a lead role in promoting dual banking and the preservation of states' rights. I'll still be doing that, but not in the public sector."

Ms. Walker said she believes a crucial challenge facing community banks in the state will be the ability of smaller institutions to get into electronic banking.

"I'm going to try and help community bank members figure out just where they're supposed to be in the cyberspace world," she said, adding that issues such as automated teller machine surcharge fees and the effect on small banks that don't have large ATM networks will also merit political attention.

Ms. Walker said her goals for the group will include increasing both membership and lobbying power.

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