DALLAS -- Less than a year after he was named executive director of the Texas Bond Review Board, Jim Thomassen will return next month to the state Attorney General's Office.

Thomassen, who will head the office's public finance section, replaces Sheela Rai, his former assistant chief. Rai recently stepped down from the top job to take a personal leave to recover from a job that often demanded a seven-day work week as Texas bond sales soared.

Thomassen, 45, acknowledged that he is returning to a high-stress job in the public finance section, which reviews every public bond sold in Texas. He said, however, that the job of public finance chief is better suited to his abilities than his position at the Texas Bond Review Board, which was created in 1987 to oversee state-level debt issues.

"It was a very hard decision. I agonized for a long time." Thomassen said. But, "I missed the legal aspects of being a lawyer. There were more administrative aspects than I expected" at the Bond Review Board.

To lure him back from the board where he has worked since February, Thomassen said the Attorney General's Office provided several incentives. Those included boosting his legal staff to eight attorneys from seven, adding a secretary, and raising his salary to almost $80,000 by upgrading the position from public finance section chief to division chief. His annual salary at the Bond Review Board was about $66,000.

To cope with the heavy demands of the job, Thomassen said he is optimistic that he can bring back Rai as his assistant chief in mid-November. "Most probably I will go back." Rai said. "I have the highest respect for Jim."

Rai said it was her decision to step down as chief of the public finance section, where pressure was intense as controversy and bond sales volume skyrocketed.

At the Bond Review Board, the selection process for a new executive director is already under way and could be completed as early as November, Thomassen said. Advertisements are being placed in Texas publications, arid some finalists who applied for the job about 10 months ago could be contacted.

Meantime, Beverly Bunch, the assistant to executive director, is expected to be named interim director of the Bond Review Board when she returns from maternity leave in late September.

Bunch also was interim director for the three months before Thomassen was selected from almost 200 applicants to succeed the Bond Review Board's first director, Tom Pollard.

Thomassen worked as head of the Attorney General's public finance section for about six years after being a bond counsel at the Austin office of Vinson & Elkins.

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