Golden Pacific Bancorp in Sacramento, Calif., has hired Virginia A. Varela, a longtime banker and regulator, as chief executive.

Varela started in November, but the $133.8 million-asset bank did not announce her hiring until Tuesday. Varela also sits on the board of directors.

She succeeded Kirk Dowdell, who co-founded the bank in 2007 and served for four years as CEO until stepping down in August. He left Golden Pacific to rejoin his financial services consulting firm Dowdell Consulting Group as president and CEO, a Golden Pacific spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Varela has more than 25 years of experience as a regulator and community banking executive. Most recently she was chief operating officer of Bank of the Orient, a $466 million-asset bank in San Francisco, Calif.

She previously served as president and CEO of Bank of Rio Vista, a $178 million-asset bank in Rio Vista, Calif., and as president of San Luis Trust Bank, a $332 million-asset bank in San Luis Obispo, Calif. Varela also worked for the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and the Office of Thrift Supervision.

Varela remains a consultant with a division of the U.S. State Department that provides banking assistance to developing countries.

"Ms. Varela is the consummate, multidimensional, banking professional, who, as both a business person and a prior regulator, mastered a variety of banking scenarios," Golden Pacific Chairman Frank Washington said in a news release.

Golden Pacific operates five branches in Yuba, Sutter and Sacramento counties in California, under the Golden Pacific Bank and Gold Country Bank brands.

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