TAMPA, Fla. - Tampa banker Adelaide "Alex" Sink was in New York City last Sunday for some R&R and personal business when she got a phone call.

The bad news? Ken Lewis, her boss's boss and the president of the country's third-largest banking company, wanted her back in Tampa - pronto.

The good news? Ms. Sink was named president of Tampa-based NationsBank Florida, a state giant owned by NationsBank Corp. of Charlotte, N.C.

Predecessor Bound for D.C.

Ms. Sink, 45, succeeds Gene Taylor, who has been president of NationsBank Florida since July 1990. Mr. Taylor will move to Washington to run NationsBank's fast-growing Middle Atlantic region.

What Ms. Sink wasn't told is that NationsBank Florida, with more than $22 billion in assets, now is likely the largest commercial bank in the United States with a woman president.

Neither the American Bankers Association nor Financial Women International, two trade groups, could cite a larger bank run by a woman.

In an industry where the number of top women executives still can fit in a thimble, Ms. Sink's new high-profile position could bring her national attention.

But Ms. Sink said she just wants to focus on what NationsBank Corp.'s top two executives, Hugh McColl and Ken Lewis, asked her to do: Take care of customers and make lots of money.

In recent years, NationsBank Florida has underperformed its affiliate NationsBank in Texas, Georgia and North Carolina. But Ms. Sink said the Florida bank is getting stronger and catching up this year.

"We're poised now to take off and reach new heights," she said.

News of Ms. Sink's promotion spread quickly Tuesday through business and political circles. Local expectations are high that Ms. Sink can step quickly into a major leadership position in the area.

Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman called Ms. Sink on Tuesday morning to offer congratulations.

"It's great for Alex Sink," Ms. Freedman told a Times reporter. "But losing Gene Taylor - that's tough. He is one of the best and brightest, and the doing-it-for-the-right reasons kind of guys."

Childhood Spent on Farm

A native of Mount Airy, N.C., Ms. Sink grew up on a farm and graduated from Wake Forest University. In 1974, she joined NCNB, the forerunner of NationsBank, in Charlotte and later was named executive vice president in March, responsible for the bank's consumer business statewide.

On Tuesday, Ms. Sink's office in NationsBank's cylindrical tower in Tampa was awash with congratulatory flowers. Most came from friends who had been tipped off to Ms. Sink's new position by husband Bill McBride, the managing partner of the Holland & Knight law firm.

"In lieu of flowers, I wish they'd send a contribution to the United Way," Ms. Sink quipped.

Mr. Trigaux, a former Washington bureau chief for the American Banker, writes for the St. Petersburg Times, where this article first appeared.

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