Fast-growing Norwest Mortgage Inc. has hired industry veteran Phillip W. Bracken as a consultant to raise its profile with government officials.

Mr. Bracken has spent 15 years in senior jobs in the mortgage industry. Des Moines-based Norwest brought him on board this summer.

His assignment involves bringing in-house and expanding the government relations work that the parent Norwest Corp. has been doing for the mortgage unit.

"This will involve a lot of outreach to educate congressmen and legislative offices about Norwest Mortgage and housing matters," a spokeswoman for the mortgage company said.

Mr. Bracken offered few details about his efforts so far, but a mission statement he developed offers some insights. The program aims to "strengthen Norwest Mortgage's role in initiating and responding to public policy and legislative issues," the statement said.

The assignment represents something of a homecoming for Mr. Bracken. He is working out of St. Louis offices that Norwest acquired last spring from Prudential Home Mortgage. These are the same quarters Mr. Bracken occupied until June as a managing director with Prudential's parent, Residential Services Corp. of America.

Despite Mr. Bracken's familiarity with Prudential operations, he will be confining his efforts to the government affairs assignment, a Norwest spokesman said.

Mr. Bracken got to know Norwest executives when they were conducting due diligence on Prudential, but he left before the company's sale was complete.

He took a high-profile position as production chief at Fleet Mortgage Group but left the job in June after just two weeks.

The abrupt departure, which came around the time Fleet Mortgage named a new chairman, spurred industry talk that Mr. Bracken left because he didn't get that job.

But Mr. Bracken plays down any connection."It wasn't a major factor in my decision," he said.

Industry observers said Norwest's move makes sense, given the lender's sprawling operation and the federal and state issues it comes up against. The decision to roll out a formal program follows a growth spurt that this year made Norwest Mortgage the industry's largest originator and servicer.

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