President Bush made a surprise visit to the annual convention of the Independent Community Bankers of America last week. Sort of.

The President appeared via videotape, between speeches from a former Mir space station astronaut, Dr. Jerry Linenger, and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Donna Tanoue. In his seven-minute address, the President thanked community bankers for backing him in the presidential election and urged them to support his proposed $1.6 billion tax cut.

"You and your customer base - the American consumer, the small-business person, the farmer and the rancher - will benefit from a lower and simplified tax rate, and the repeal of the death tax," he said.

Mr. Bush's appearance was the first by a President - taped or otherwise - at an ICBA convention. His chief economic adviser, Lawrence B. Lindsey, is a former Federal Reserve Board governor and is well acquainted with the group's longtime executive vice president, Kenneth A. Guenther.

Mr. Guenther, who is also a former Fed employee, said Mr. Lindsey "played a key role" in writing the President's script and that the speech was taped last Monday in Washington. The tape was flown to Las Vegas the next day and shown to an audience of 3,100 bankers, spouses, vendors, and other conference attendees on Wednesday.

"The timing was very important considering that the President is on the road selling tax cuts very hard," Mr. Guenther said. "He is reaching out to one of his core groups of supporters."

A trio of Southerners has been elected to serve as the top officers of the ICBA.Meeting in Las Vegas last week, the group of community bankers chose Robert I. Gulledge, the chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Citizens Bank of Robertsdale, Ala., as its chairman. Next in line as chairman-elect is A. Pierce Stone, the chairman, president, and CEO of Virginia Community Bank in Louisa. Vice Chairman is C.R. Cloutier, president of MidSouth National Bank in Lafayette, La.

Also, Salvatore Marranca, president and CEO of Cattaraugus County Bank in Little Valley, N.Y. was elected as secretary. And the position of Treasurer went to James E. Caspary, president of First National Bank of Clifton, Ill.

Peter R. Fisher is going to be the next undersecretary of the Treasury Department for domestic finance pending Senate confirmation, which is expected to be a breeze for the 15-year Federal Reserve Board veteran. President Bush on Thursday announced his intention to nominate Mr. Fisher. Currently Mr. Fisher manages the open market account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.One of the questions in the coming months will be whether Mr. Fisher, a Harvard-educated lawyer, and his soon-to-be colleagues at Treasury will be unduly influenced by the Fed because of their past ties to the central bank. The man who will be his boss, Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill, has a strong relationship with Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan.

Former Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chief of Staff Mark Jacobsen is working for former Comptroller of the Currency Eugene Ludwig - again. Mr. Jacobsen, who resigned from the FDIC shortly before the new administration was inaugurated, started two weeks ago at Promontory Financial Group, which is run by Mr. Ludwig.This will be the fourth time that Mr. Jacobsen has worked for Mr. Ludwig, following stints at the law firm Covington and Burling, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and Bankers Trust. Mr. Jacobsen is a partner at Promontory and focuses on financial consulting.

"Gene has put together a pool of talent of top-level people from law, the agencies, and the industry," Mr. Jacobsen said in an interview Friday. "That has attracted an incredibly interesting array of clients and fascinating topics to work on."

Community bankers were pleased last week when Congress overturned a major Clinton administration workplace-safety regulation, the so-called ergonomics rule.The industry was concerned that "this regulation would substantially increase costs and add to the regulatory burden already borne by our members," Robert R. Davis, the top lobbyist for America's Community Bankers, wrote in a letter last week to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert.

The group was especially concerned that the regulation would make thrift owners responsible for personnel injuries that originated outside the bank. "These injuries could become the banks' responsibility if they are 'significantly' aggravated' at work," Mr. Davis wrote.

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