Recent statements from Texas community banker Don Powell have left industry observers scratching their heads.

They are trying to figure out whether he's denying that he will be nominated to lead the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., as has been reported, or is just practicing D.C. doublespeak ahead of time.

At a shareholder meeting March 30, Mr. Powell - the president and chief executive officer of First National Bank of Amarillo - reportedly spoke for the first time on the subject of his nomination by denying that he had been asked to serve as FDIC chairman and saying that he was not selling his bank stock.

According to an article in the Amarillo Globe-News, he brought up the stories of his pending nomination and asked, "How many people want to ask if I'm going to the FDIC?"

When one shareholder asked whether his son, who works at the FDIC, would get a new boss anytime soon, the paper quoted Mr. Powell as saying, "He's getting a new boss. But I'm not sure who it will be. I'm not going to speculate to that question. I've not been asked to serve as chairman of the board."

Furthermore, he said he was hanging on to his bank stock, though several industry sources have said he is close to selling the entire bank, in which he is the majority stockholder. Before he could take a board position with the FDIC, Mr. Powell would have to divest all his shares.

"I'm a proud shareholder from day one, and I love my ownership," Mr. Powell reportedly told the paper after the meeting adjourned. "No, I'm not selling my stock."

In a telephone interview Thursday, he refused to elaborate. "The story speaks for itself," he said.

But several sources were adamant that he was not making a serious effort to deny that he will be named as chairman, or that he would not sell his bank if he were nominated. They speculated that he was simply trying to reassure investors and had chosen his words carefully.

"I don't think he out-and-out lied, but I don't think he is going to show his whole hand either," said Patrick Hickman, chief executive officer of First State Bank in Happy, Tex., who formerly worked with Mr. Powell. "I think it is typical Powell - he is not going to make a statement that will back him into a corner.

"He is a really smart guy. I think he is just biding time."

Dennis Dollar, acting chairman of the National Credit Union Administration, plans to appoint J. Kirk Cuevas and John J. McKechnie 3d to his personal staff early next month.Mr. Cuevas will be the chief of staff and counsel to the chairman. He has served as executive assistant to Mr. Dollar since 1997. Mr. McKechnie, currently vice president of legislative affairs at the Credit Union National Association, will be the special assistant to the chairman for congressional affairs.

When Senate Banking Committee member Thomas R. Carper, D-Del., praised China's release last week of the 24 crew members of a downed Navy spy plane, he had more to offer than political platitudes.The former Navy captain served as mission commander for scores of P-3 reconnaissance missions over the South Pacific.

"We were taught how to hold up under intense interrogation, lousy quarters, physical abuse, and torture," he said. "Perhaps my greatest relief is knowing that, throughout this ordeal, our airmen and women did not need to put this training to the test."

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