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Trump picks Mormon and Utahn Randal Quarles for Fed

Randal Quarles, U.S. assistant secretary of Treasury, speaks to journalists in Tokyo Thursday, March 10, 2005. Quarles said Thursday China must adopt a more flexible policy on its currency to help address global trade imbalances.
Randal Quarles, U.S. assistant secretary of Treasury, speaks to journalists in Tokyo Thursday, March 10, 2005. Quarles said Thursday China must adopt a more flexible policy on its currency to help address global trade imbalances.
Shizuo Kambayashi, Associated Press

While the nation debates President Donald Trump’s recent decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, there’s at least one choice from the White House this week that ought to inspire universal praise — the nomination of Randal Quarles to the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors.

Quarles is an ideal pick not only for his unrivaled qualifications but also his unimpeachable integrity, incisive mind, unflappable demeanor and personal eloquence.

If such epithets seem hyperbolic, then you don’t know Quarles.

While the White House has yet to make a formal announcement, it was widely reported on Friday that Trump has tapped Quarles to fill a vacancy for the Fed's vice chairman of bank supervision, or, as Politico dubbed it, the nation’s “top bank cop.”

According to some cursory research, it appears that Quarles will become only the second Utahn (and second Latter-day Saint) to serve on the Fed’s board, which sets the nation’s monetary policy.

The other Utahn? Marriner Stoddard Eccles.

Eccles was chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1934 to 1948. And it just happens that Quarles married Hope Eccles — Hope’s grandfather was Marriner’s brother.

Apart from the mystical familial connection, Quarles possesses a charismatic combination of an analytical mind, honed by experience, and a magnanimous personality that seems tailor-made for the post.

After finishing an Ivy League double-header — graduating from both Columbia and Yale Law School — Quarles ascended to the top echelons of renowned Wall Street law firm Davis Polk, where he was instrumental in some of banking’s biggest transactions.

He went on to serve as both assistant secretary and under secretary at the Treasury. Quarles was also the U.S. executive director of the International Monetary Fund. He eventually left Beltway life to found The Cynosure Group, a private investment firm based in Salt Lake City.

Among Quarles’ more intriguing assignments, however, was serving as Sen. Harry Reid’s “home teaching” companion in his local Latter-day Saint congregation in D.C.

If Quarles, a Republican, was able to visit fellow congregants and share Christian teachings alongside Reid, one of the nation’s most influential Democrats, it bodes well for Quarles’ ability to navigate the independent and nonpartisan Fed, which is still full of Obama-era appointees, including the Fed’s current chair, Janet Yellen.

If confirmed, Quarles would replace Daniel Tarullo, who abdicated his position on the board in April. Whereas Tarullo was known for coordinating new layers of regulations after the 2008 financial crisis, Quarles will likely be in a position to take a clear-eyed approach without entangled allegiances or biases.

If this all seems like heady business, it does not appear to be affecting Quarles. During a recent event held at the family’s architecturally alluring residence, he and his wife were consummate hosts — ensuring that visitors had enough to eat and arranging seats.

The couple, who could easily find other less stressful activities to occupy their time, seem most content when serving others — which might explain their impulse to relinquish an enviable situation in Salt Lake City to help steer the nation’s monetary policy and banking landscape.

Indeed, tackling complex problems with sound thinking, creativity and verve is part of Quarles’ modus operandi.

As a young student at Columbia in the early 1980s, Quarles served as a volunteer clerk for his local LDS congregation.

At the time, his Manhattan-based ward started receiving an excessively high volume of letters from the church’s headquarters, containing local membership records that were intended for a congregation in Brooklyn, not Manhattan.

After several attempts to resolve the issue, Quarles finally settled on a counterintuitive solution — humor.

He sent off a masterful missive that garnered both smiles and results. The tongue-in-cheek letter has since become lore among volunteer Latter-day Saint clerks.

After explaining his problem to church headquarters, the college-age Quarles wrote in his letter:

“What more can we give? I’m a young man. I should be out tonight, out on the town. I should be at a Broadway play tonight with a beautiful girl on my arm, the shriek of the city in my ears, and the double beat of summer love in my heart … And what am I doing? I am stuffing envelopes. I am stapling.”

The chortle-inducing dispatch evidently worked, catalyzing both chuckles and changes.

Randal Quarles may not marshal such youthful élan to fix issues in his new role, but he’ll certainly be applying his uniquely qualified mind to serve the nation and solve vexing problems — only this time on a much larger scale.