Evans warned that by not aggressively moving to boost inflation, the public may begin to assume the Fed is content to miss its own goals, undercutting the effectiveness of U.S. monetary policy.
Most Fed officials, including Fed Chair Janet Yellen, expect economic conditions will be ripe for higher interest rates sometime this year. Some economists have recently warned that if the economy continues to underperform expectations, the Fed may need to delay a rate hike beyond September, when most currently expect the Fed to act.
Evans, however, downplayed the economy's weak first quarter, saying it was probably transitory.
Instead he argued that the so-called equilibrium real rate - the interest rate at which the economy can function at full health - is still low enough to justify near-zero rates.
Only when the equilibrium real rate is "well north" of actual short-term interest rates and is rising "smartly" will there be enough upward pressure on inflation to justify raising the Fed's target rate, he said.