Joseph H. Neely 2d announced plans Tuesday to leave the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. board Oct. 1.
Mr. Neely, who joined the five-member board in January 1996, is expected to set up a bank consulting business in Jackson, Miss., FDIC sources said. Mr. Neely did not return several phone calls seeking comment.
Before coming to Washington, Mr. Neely had been Mississippi banking commissioner for four years. He also had been a senior vice president at Merchants National Bank, Vicksburg, Miss.
In his resignation letter to President Clinton, Mr. Neely did not explain why he decided to depart less than halfway through his six-year term.
Mr. Neely, a Republican, did say he is leaving the agency at a high point in banking history. "Both industry conditions and industry performance are at record levels," he said. "Likewise, the supervisory and regulatory structure governing the banking industry is sound, particularly at the FDIC."
Community bankers, who saw Mr. Neely as an ally, took the news of his departure hard.
"It's an enormous loss. He knew community banking inside and out," said Kenneth A. Guenther, executive vice president of the Independent Bankers Association of America. "That's not a typical Clinton administration appointee."
FDIC Chairman Donna A. Tanoue issued a statement Tuesday describing Mr. Neely as "focused, tenacious, and extremely energetic."
"Joe has brought to the table the perspective of not only the community banker but of a former state regulator," Ms. Tanoue said.
Until a successor is nominated by the White House and confirmed by the Senate, the agency's board will operate with just four members: Ms. Tanoue, Vice Chairman Andrew C. "Skip" Hove Jr., Office of Thrift Supervision Director Ellen S. Seidman, and acting Comptroller of the Currency Julie L. Williams.
To former colleagues in Mississippi, Mr. Neely's announcement came as no surprise.
"I've known for some time that Joe's heart was to try to come back to Mississippi," said William D. Sones, chairman and chief executive officer of State Bank and Trust Co., Brookhaven.
"He's very well-regarded and well-respected back here in Mississippi," said Howell N. Gage Jr., chairman and CEO of Merchants Bank, Vicksburg.
Mr. Neely had a relatively low profile at the FDIC.
As chairman of the board's audit committee, he monitored the agency's internal controls-an important but largely invisible job.
Mr. Neely also led the agency's efforts to simplify and streamline its rules. For example, he is credited with the agency's July decision to speed the processing of merger, branch, and deposit insurance applications submitted by healthy banks.
But even that did not put him in the vanguard of agency activity.
In an April 1996 interview with American Banker, Mr. Neely said he would not be satisfied with the job unless he had a major impact on the agency. But FDIC board members are often overshadowed by the agency's chairman, and sources said Mr. Neely tired of playing second fiddle. In the two public board meetings the agency has held since Ms. Tanoue took office, Mr. Neely's uneasiness was obvious.
Nevertheless, in his resignation letter, he called the experience "the most professionally rewarding and satisfying of my career. ... I am honored to have been a small part of such a great legacy."