Asheville Chief Financial Officer Ben Durant is resigning to take a job at Elizabeth City State University, meaning the city must now conduct a nationwide search for a new budget point person while it faces a looming $3 to 5-million deficit in the next fiscal year.
Durant, after a 12-year stint with the city, is leaving to take a position as vice chancellor of business and finance at Elizabeth City State University. During the city’s recent budget crunch, Durant has been a familiar face at governmental meetings, informing City Council of the scope and nature of the budget challenges and repeatedly asserting that the city at a “financial crossroads” where it cannot afford to rule out measures like a possible increase in property taxes. At the most recent Council meeting, Durant announced that through proposed cuts, city staff could trim the $5 million budget gap down to $3 million.
Durant’s resignation will take effect April 15, and Administrative Services Director Lauren Bradley will take over his role while the city engages in a search for a replacement “on a national scale,” according to the official announcement from the city.
The full announcement of Durant’s departure is below.
— David Forbes, staff writer
ASHEVILLE – Ben Durant accepted a position as vice chancellor of business and finance for Elizabeth City State University. “This position is an exciting career opportunity for me and I am looking forward to the new challenges it will present,” said Durant. “I appreciate the opportunities the City of Asheville has afforded me during my 12-year tenure.”
Mr. Durant, who is from the Elizabeth City area in eastern North Carolina, started with the city of Asheville as budget director on January 15, 1998. On September 12, 2005, City Manager Gary Jackson promoted Mr. Durant to the role of chief financial officer, merging the finance director and budget director roles.
Under Mr. Durant’s leadership, the city of Asheville consistently excelled in financial management and budget reporting receiving the “Excellence in Financial Reporting Award” and “Distinguished Budget Presentation Award” from the Government Finance Officers Association on an annual basis.
“Our success in weathering the current financial storm is attributable to a team effort, but there is no denying Ben has been a key contributor,” said City Manager Gary Jackson. “We have seen Ben grow in the chief financial officer role and we are certain he is ready for this next level of responsibility.”
Effective April 15, 2010, budget management functions will report to Administrative Services Director Lauren Bradley. The recruitment effort for the finance director position will occur on a national scale.