CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Director Charles Brown is leaving his job, citing a tumultuous year of multi-million dollar budget cuts, massive staff layoffs and branch closings.

The Library Board of Trustees voted Wednesday to accept Brown's resignation, effective June 30, the end of the library's budget year.

A search for his replacement will begin immediately, officials said.

In the meantime, Brown will work at a reduced pay (80 percent of his current $170,974 salary) with Vick Phillips, whose is taking over as interim CEO.

Brown says he began thinking about leaving the job in the fall, and made his final decision early last month during a conversation with library board Chair Robin Branstrom.

The reason: Laying off 180 employees, closing four locations and cutting library hours in half had been exhausting.

Those cuts were the result of a $10 million reduction in money from the county, which supplies about 90 percent of the library budget. As a result, relations with county officials were strained last year.

It's something I did not want to go through again, Brown said, alluding to the potential for more budget cuts ahead. Laying off one third of the staff still haunts me....Every lay-off notice I signed was like a dagger in my heart. It was the most painful experience of my life.

Phillips, who says he does not intend to take the job permanently, is not an experienced library manager. However, he is well known in the community as a veteran executive who served as chief of staff for former Bank of America Chairman Hugh McColl.

The cost of Phillips' $13,000 a month salary will be offset through a combination of savings, reserves and the elimination of another executive position that was cut due to departmental consolidation with the county.

Brown has been with the system seven years, much of it a period of growth, including the opening of ImaginOn in 2005, and numerous national awards for the system.

Branstrom said the board had not been seeking to replace Brown. However, members agreed that, if a leadership change must occur, now is the time.

Specifically, she cited changes that will result from an ongoing study by the Future of the Library Task Force of how the library system ought to be run in the future. That study, to be completed in March, will include recommendations for the next fiscal year. Among the things considered: Savings to be had by merging library departments with the county.

It's a pivotal time for the system, says Branstrom, and transformational leadership is a must.

I think Charles saw it as an exit point, and it seemed logical to me, too, says Branstrom. He saw that the funding problem was not going to be restored to previous levels in the near future. It was a different ballgame than what he signed on for when he arrived in Charlotte.

Phillips is seen as a ideal transition leader, based on his experienced in Charlotte's banking industry.

Phillips spent more than 32 years with Bank of America, including the periods during which it was transformed from NCNB to NationsBank. He worked in a variety of management roles, leading a number of business units through strategic, organizational and cultural changes.

After retiring from Bank of America, he served as managing director of Carolinas Investment Consulting in Charlotte, from 2004-2010.

Read or Share this story: