At 3:30 p.m., Tuesday, January 31, employees of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City milled around the long hallway stretching from the elevators to the employee exit. By 3:45 p.m., hundreds of employees stood shoulder-to-shoulder, some holding posters wishing Esther George a happy retirement. George had recently celebrated her 40th year with the Kansas City Fed, the last eleven as president. Fed policy says that presidents must retire when they turn 65.
In the weeks leading up to this moment, there were interviews with media outlets big and small, including External LinkKCUR, the local National Public Radio station, and External LinkNews-Press in St. Joseph, near George’s hometown of Faucett, Missouri. There was a tribute event and reception. And now she was leaving the building for the very last time as president. The elevator landed. The doors opened. George stepped out to a wave of cheers and applause that followed her out of the Kansas City Fed and into her new life.
To learn more about Esther George and her impact on the Kansas City Fed, see the External Linkbiography in the winter issue of External LinkTEN magazine, by Tim Todd. It starts with her childhood in tiny Faucett, on the farm her ancestors had first plowed in the late 1830s:
"In the 1970s, it was where Esther, like every other farm kid in America, worked for the family enterprise— “I made my 25 cents an hour cutting weeds out of soybeans and doing chores”—while they dreamed about being somewhere else.
"Eventually, that somewhere else would be the President’s Office of the Federal Reserve Bank in downtown Kansas City. In 2011 she became only the ninth president in what was at that time the Bank’s nearly century of service to the Tenth Federal Reserve District."
George served much of her career in the Bank’s Division of Supervision and Risk Management, serving for 10 years as the Tenth District’s chief financial institution supervisor, which included oversight of the region’s state-chartered member banks and nearly 1,000 bank and financial holding companies, as well as the Bank’s discount window and risk-management functions. She was directly involved in the Tenth District’s banking supervision and discount window lending activities during the banking crisis of the 1980s and post-9/11.
She provided leadership for the Federal Reserve’s efforts to develop External LinkFedNowSM, an instant payments system, and she hosted the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s international External LinkEconomic Policy Symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
The search for George’s successor is under way, led by those Kansas City Fed board members who are not affiliated with the banking industry. The search committee chair is External LinkMaria Griego-Raby, president and principal of Contract Associates, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Other members include:
- External LinkRuben Alonso III, chief executive officer, AltCap, Kansas City, Missouri
- External LinkPatrick A. Dujakovich, president, Greater Kansas City AFL-CIO, Kansas City, Missouri
- Board Chair - External LinkEdmond Johnson, president and chief executive officer, Premier Manufacturing, Inc. and ENFusion, Frederick, Colorado