Deficit work done, Bowles wrapping up UNC tenure

Posted December 15, 2010

— Erskine Bowles is a man who always has a tight calendar, and the past several months have been especially tough for him to schedule.

While finishing up his five-year stint as president of the University of North Carolina system, Bowles also was co-chairman of a panel put together by President Barack Obama to find ways to slash the federal deficit.

"I've been really focused on getting these two jobs done and done right," he said Wednesday during an interview with WRAL News.

Bowles and co-chairman Alan Simpson drafted a plan that included a painful mix of spending cuts and tax increases, but it failed to get enough support by members of the deficit commission two weeks ago to advance to Congress for consideration.

With that work behind him, he said, he is trying to tie up loose ends at UNC before new president Tom Ross takes over in January.

While Bowles isn't one to name his greatest achievement, he is credited with making the 17-campus system much more effective by cutting administrative costs while keeping reductions away from academics. Those moves were critical to sustaining the system during several rounds of budget cuts in recent years.

He said he thinks lawmakers could be more open to ways to save money, like streamlining state regulations to make new building projects easier, because the state continues to face tight finances.

"If we can get through some of these state regulations that inhibit us from doing things as smartly as you'd like to, then, in fact, we can do things more efficiently, more effectively," he said.

Erskine Bowles Web only: Bowles looks back, to future

Bowles was first approached about the UNC job when he was President Bill Clinton's chief of staff in the mid-1990s. He said he felt like he couldn't leave that position and feared he would never get another chance at what he considers his dream job.

"I have always wanted to be president of this university (system). I've been real candid – this was my dream job, and I thought it had passed me by," he said.

He has tried to prepare Ross, who currently is president of Davidson College, for the tough budget times that are still ahead for the UNC system, and he said he believes Ross will work well with the new Republican-controlled legislature.

"I'm excited about Tom taking over," he said. "Clearly, he's coming in at a tough budget time. I think we are ready for it."

Bowles said he has already turned down job offers but will take the right position if it comes along. In the meantime, he said, he's excited about being able to spend more than two nights a week at his Charlotte home – a luxury he hasn't had for 19 years.

"My wife says I'll be fine in retirement on Monday. She's really worried about Tuesday," he said.


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  • superman Dec 16, 2010

    All they needed was one sentence-- Stop giving money away! After that have some kool aid and go home.

  • NCPictures Dec 16, 2010

    I wish I could get "work" like that! What a bunch of garbage!

    You should be embarrassed Erskine!

  • jdupree Dec 16, 2010

    Work done! What a joke! This commission was just a waste of time and tax dollars and continues the sucessfull career of Barney Fife Bowles!

  • XLAW Dec 16, 2010

    In light of the current argument in Wake County over whether the new superintendent should exclusively have an education background, I find it curious that Erskine Bowles, an investment banker and government administrator, is being followed by Tom Ross, a judge and nonprofit administrator, and the University has had C. D. Spangler, a banker, and Gordon Gray, a politician. Maybe Wake can learn something from the University.

  • dlk13ster Dec 16, 2010


    I'd be inclined to agree, except for one thing: following through with them IS easy.

    It's having to win a re-election without special interests paying for your campaign that's HARD part. And yes, that goes for BOTH parties, which is why NEITHER were willing to put the measures in place.

  • ncguy Dec 16, 2010

    deficit work done- hardly, it's easy to give ideas the tough part is following through with them...

  • VT1994Hokie Dec 15, 2010

    Good. Thanks.

  • VT1994Hokie Dec 15, 2010

    At one time, I thought that he was doing a good job. Not anymore. He gave out too many favors to the democrats, especially Mike Easley and his wife. Now. Working for Obama, I have lost even more respect for him. Wonder how much he is going to make in SALARY from the giver?

  • geosol Dec 15, 2010

    How dare Mr. Bowles point out the problems with the deficit and offer solutions!!!! The angry old man on the radio who tells me what to think said that the deficit doesn't matter anymore, since we need to offer big tax breaks to billionaires now. Yay!!!

  • snossg1 Dec 15, 2010

    All I know is when there were issues at NC State he threw us under the bus and when UNC got in trouble with the NCAA he was totally supportive of them. I am glad to see him gone!