Bair has stood out

Even if Sheila Bair weren’t a Kansan by birth and unassuming temperament, it would be noteworthy in Kansas that she’s leaving the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Bair has been a standout FDIC chairwoman, exhibiting foresight, nonpartisanship and courage during a historic downturn in which such qualities have been rare across government and the financial sector.

Monday’s announcement that Bair will leave her job on July 8 was not a surprise. Her five-year term is up.

But the news provides an opportunity to note her extraordinary time in office, during which she went from sounding early warnings about highrisk lending to overseeing the closing of 365 banks to pushing for regulatory reforms to being ranked by Forbes as the second-most powerful woman in the world. When too many were focused on Wall Street, Bair was trying to look out for consumers and small banks — the stakeholders to the financial crisis who didn’t have lobbyists and lawmakers to arrange bailouts for them.

Americans are fortunate that President Bush chose Bair for the job in 2006, and that her time growing up in Independence, graduating from the University of Kansas, working as a civil rights attorney and serving as an aide to longtime Kansas Sen. Bob Dole had prepared her for the unprecedented challenge.

If most Americans weathered the worst of the recession without fearing for their bank deposits, they can thank Bair.

— For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman