"It still wasn't clear that we had hit bottom or that we were going to hit bottom anytime soon," Evans said. "People were holding their breath at that point."
Indeed, Evans had basically stepped into a high-profile role in the middle of a catastrophe that his previous jobs in academia and research had not prepared him for. He oversees about 1,400 employees involved in regulation and banking services in addition to helping shape monetary policy. The Chicago Fed has a board of directors made up corporate chiefs, bankers and community leaders. The president also regularly meets with an advisory council that includes small-business owners, farmers and labor interests.
Under Moskow, the bank had increased its outreach to constituents in its district, which compromises northern Illinois, northern Indiana, Iowa, southern Wisconsin and Michigan except for the Upper Peninsula.
The public speaking came easily for Moskow, who had worked in senior management in the private sector and in high-level government jobs. It took some time for Evans to grow into the CEO role.
"When he first started as president, he seemed quite nervous and unsure of himself," Christiano said.
Behind the calm and methodical exterior, though, is a competitive spirit, friends and associates say. Several years ago, some friends invited him on a golf trip where they played a tournament. After finishing last for a few years, Evans decided to amp it up, taking lessons and buying new clubs. He has won the tournament the past two times and has a traveling trophy to show for his accomplishment.
"I'd give anything to have that cup in this article and show those guys," Evans said.
Evans can tick off the grim toll of the recession from memory: U.S. real gross domestic product declined by more than 4 percent. More than 8.5 million jobs were lost, and the unemployment rate doubled to 10 percent. The household sector lost more than $13 trillion in wealth.
Evans has also seen the fallout firsthand.
A native of South Carolina, he's the youngest of three boys. His father was a life insurance executive who was a B-17 navigator during World War II; his mother worked as a receptionist in a dental office.
His oldest brother, Bill, who is 12 years older than Evans, owns a La-Z-Boy furniture store in Columbus, Ga. His sales are down about 25 percent in the past three years.
"I'm not smart enough to understand the big picture that Charlie watches, but I give him my perspective," Bill said.
Closer to home, Evans' 24-year-old daughter graduated from college two years ago and has had trouble finding a teaching job. She's working as an aide at a suburban elementary school.
"She's moved from unemployment to underemployment, and we're thrilled by that progress," Evans said dryly.
The anecdotal evidence combined with data showing that households and businesses were gun-shy in their spending convinced him that the Fed needed to do more to ease unemployment.
He recognizes that further policy moves would increase the risk that inflation could rise above the 2 percent level the Fed considers ideal for long-term economic growth. But he said the harm from a long period of high unemployment is greater than a temporary increase in prices.
"All of a sudden, you could get people who have permanently lost their skills and attachment to labor force that would affect their potential," Evans said. "That's not priced into financial markets."
Most Popular Stories
- NSA Defends Global Cellphone Tracking Legality
- Ad Counts Rise in 2013 for Hispanic Magazines
- Top Websites for U.S. Hispanics
- Networks Vie for U.S. Hispanic TV Viewers
- Saab Gets Back into the Game; U.S. Auto Sales Soar
- Apple Activates Customer-Tracking iBeacon
- Dell Offers Undisclosed Number of Employee Buyouts
- 2013 Tech Gift Guide: iPad Mini Still Hot; Chromecast a Great Low-Cost Option
- Authorities Close to Deal with JPMorgan Chase over Madoff Response
- A Biography of Jonathan Ive, Apple's Creative Chief