WASHINGTON - Nine months after rumors surfaced of that he would be nominated to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. board, Joseph H. Neely appeared before the Senate Banking Committee Friday for his confirmation hearing.

Mississippi's banking commissioner received strong words of praise from the state's Republican senators.

"He has an outstanding record" as banking commissioner, Sen. Trent Lott testified. "I think it's really a credit to the FDIC that they'll have a man with his kind of banking experience, business experience, and educational background."

"He comes to this job with a lot of ability, a lot of experience and a lot of preparation," added Sen. Thad Cochran. "And he's uniquely qualified to represent the small banks' interests and viewpoints."

Mr. Neely, who was a senior vice president at Merchants National Bank in Vicksburg before he became Mississippi's banking commissioner in 1992, said he will remember those interests and viewpoints once he makes the move from state to federal regulator.

"My perspective was developed in the lobbies and along the front lines of community banks, as a banker and as a regulator," Mr. Neely said. "I hope to never lose this perspective, and I will bring it with me to the boardroom of the FDIC."

Mr. Neely's nomination is expected to be approved by the full Senate soon. His arrival will bring the FDIC's five-member board to full strength for the first time since 1992.

Mr. Serb writes for Medill News Service.

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