University Bancorp Inc. in Ann Arbor, Mich., has named former Michigan state senator and one-time candidate for governor Alma Wheeler Smith as its new chairperson, replacing Charles McDowell, who died last week.

In a news release Friday, the $119 million-asset company also said that it has established a search committee to help fill vacancies on the board of the holding company and its bank subsidiary following the recent deaths of McDowell and director Nicholas Fortson, and the resignation of another director.

Among the search committee's first actions was recommending Smith as the chair of the holding company.

Smith served 14 years on the appropriations committees in both houses of the Michigan Legislature, including a stint as the Senate committee's vice chair. The daughter of former Ann Arbor mayor and civil rights activist Albert Wheeler, Smith in 2001 became the first African-American in the state's history to mount a campaign for governor.

"We are honored to have such a talented and capable individual as former Senator Smith to serve as the chair of our board of directors," said Stephen Lange Ranzini, University's president and CEO, in a news release. "Her experience with the appropriation and oversight of the state's $40 billion budget will be invaluable to us."

Commenting on McDowell's death, Ranzini said the former chairman was "ethical, level headed, intelligent and available on a moment's notice."

McDowell began his banking career as an examiner with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and later served as CEO of a community bank in northern Michigan and president of the trade group now known as the Community Bankers of Michigan.

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