After just four months on the job, Richard Brewer resigned Tuesday night from his position as president and CEO of Macons Cherry Blossom Festival.
Brewer decided to move back to Charleston, S.C., where his family lives, and resume the consulting business he left to take the Cherry Blossom job, said George McCanless, chairman of the festival board and publisher of The Telegraph. McCanless said he understands the family separation might not have been working out.
Brewers departure was friendly and did not reflect problems with his performance, said Cyndey Busbee, a board member who is serving as festival chairman for the 2013 festival. Although Brewers resignation was a surprise and this is a strategic time for planning next years festival, Busbee said, If Richard was going to resign, this was really the time to do that in order for us have time to make this as good a festival as others have been.
McCanless said the board is talking to several potential local candidates to serve as CEO on an interim basis, until after the 2013 Cherry Blossom Festival. He said he expects a choice to be made within the next few days.
Were looking for people who have a relationship to the festival as friends, supporters, possibly people who were employees, Busbee said.
McCanless said he is not sure how the search for the permanent festival CEO will proceed. The nationwide search that pinpointed Brewer was so recent that McCanless said its possible the board might be able to return to some of those candidates if it wishes.
Brewer took the reigns of the festival June 14, replacing Karen Lambert, who served from 2009 until she accepted a job as president of The Peyton Anderson Foundation. This marks the sixth change in festival leadership in a decade.
Co-founder of the highly successful Riverbend festival in Chattanooga, Tenn., Brewer had described the keys to success for a festival as developing lasting relationships with sponsors and developing loyal patrons through quality programming and modern digital technology.
Busbee said Brewer had a lot of great new ideas about sponsorships, many of which are being finalized now. She said The Medical Center of Central Georgia, where she is marketing director, was given a different opportunity for this festival that fit better with what the hospital wanted to achieve with its sponsorship.
In terms of lining up sponsorships, she said, We are where we were supposed to be compared with this time last year.
McCanless said the festival is probably in the best financial shape its ever been in.
The festival organization runs not only the 10-day festival that has helped define Macon, but also a New Years Eve ball-drop event and, for several years, a fall Levee Fest. Brewers major public decision during his tenure was to cancel the Levee Fest, a money loser, for 2012.
One of the good things here is that while the president and CEO plays a great role, we have an experienced staff, McCanless said. He also called it comforting that several former board chairs have just created a presidential club of all past festival and board chairs, which can also provide support and insight.
Busbee said the leadership shift will mean greater reliance on practical help from this festivals board.
This type of situation is what calls on the board to be keepers of the dream, as Kirby Godsey says, Busbee said. And we will be.
To contact writer S. Heather Duncan, call 744-4225.