updated 2/9/2007 1:25:24 PM ET 2007-02-09T18:25:24

Susan Bies, who has been a governor at the Federal Reserve since 2001, announced Friday that she will leave at the end of March, giving President Bush a fresh opportunity to put his stamp on the central bank.

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Bies, 59, said she plans to spend more time with her family.

With her expertise in banking and risk management, Bies has played at key role in shaping regulatory policy at the Fed, which is responsible for making sure the nation’s financial system remains sound. That’s also an important ingredient to the country’s economic health.

She took the job as Fed governor in December 2001, three months after the terror attacks on New York and Washington. Before that, Bies was an executive at First Tennessee National Corp, spending two decades with the Memphis bank.

With Bies’ departure, Bush will have a total of two vacancies to fill on the central bank, whose policy affects interest rates and thus influences economic activity.

The president appointed Bies as well as the rest of the current members on the Federal Reserve’ Board of Governors, including chairman Ben Bernanke.

Bernanke, who succeeded longtime chairman Alan Greenspan, took the Fed helm last February and has heard plaudits for his first-year performance.

“Sue’s invaluable contributions to both monetary and regulatory policy at the Federal Reserve have been aide by her unique perspective as both an economist and a banker,” Bernanke said. “Her leadership at the board was most evident in guiding our efforts in banking policy and community affairs,” he said.

Bies said she will not participate in the Fed’s next meeting to examine interest rate policy on March 20-21.

As a young woman, Bies once pictured her professional life unfolding in the classroom — not the Fed boardroom. A change of heart in her senior year of college, however, put Bies on the career path that eventually would land her at the Federal Reserve.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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