A New Jersey banking regulator is rejoining the industry she spent the past three years supervising.

Nancy Graves, who until last week served as assistant director of New Jersey's Department of Banking and Insurance, has joined Pascack Bancorp (PSBR) in Waldwick as president and chief executive. It is her second stint as a banker; she previously spent two years as chief operating officer of First Savings Bank in Woodbridge, before becoming a consultant to community banks.

Graves was appointed to her regulatory post by Gov. Chris Christie in 2010, but she always planned on eventually returning to the industry, she said in an interview.

"It was the right time and the right place," she says. "It's a great board and a great team here. It's very exciting."

Graves succeeds Bruce Meisel, who was named vice chairman of the $377 million-asset company's board. Pascack is the parent of Pascack Community Bank, which has eight branches in the state, including Bank of Nutley, Bank of Hackensack and Bank of Rochelle Park.

She says she had planned to remain in Trenton for about two years but extended her service last fall after Hurricane Sandy struck. The storm ravaged homes along the coast and left thousands of New Jersey homeowners wrangling with banks to release insurance proceeds for repairs. The banking department oversees state-chartered banks, but Graves and her colleagues reached out to federally-chartered lenders and mortgage servicers on residents' behalf to help speed the payouts.

"Each of those cases took a lot of hands-on, personal attention," Graves says. "People would come to us and ask for help, and it really required someone with banking knowledge to be able to deal with them."

Graves has worked for a decade in New Jersey, but she began her career with Mark Twain Bank in St. Louis, where she headed retail banking and served in a series of posts over the course of 20 years with the company.

During her first weeks at Pascack, Graves says she plans to evaluate its business and work with its board to set priorities. "I'm confident that within a pretty quick amount of time, we'll be able to move forward on some of the initiatives we hope to be able to do," she says.

Graves' first day on the job was Tuesday. She left the banking department last Friday. "I took the long weekend," she says.

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