At some point in the next year or two, Erskine Bowles will most likely step down from his post as UNC system president.
He took office Jan. 1, 2006, and he turns 65 - the traditional retirement age - next August.
But in a wide-ranging chat Tuesday with reporters and editors at the News & Observer, he made clear he doesn't want to leave the job until he cleans up some of the messes facing him right now.
Controversies over a retreat rights policy that for five years has paid top administrators boatloads of money after they leave their jobs; a bloated payroll filled with administrative jobs and associated costs Bowles is now pledging to reduce; and of course, the state's economic woes, which have led to more than $170 million in UNC system budget cuts this year.
Bowles has a lot to say on these issues and others. You can read our coverage here and watch a video of the interview here.
And click here for today's main News & Observer editorial, which lauds Bowles for his attention to shaving administrative costs.
Some other tidbits from the Tuesday conversation:
On the Mary Easley situation: Bowles said that when revelations about the former First Lady's pay hike - of more than 80 percent - first emerged, he was skeptical.
"I just grossly underestimated how long that matter would be before the people of the state," he said. "I honestly thought that, really, the hiring of her before I got here, that she was a big star and you all would look at it and there would be no "there" there. I just underestimated, grossly, the whole depth of the situation."
On the growth over time of administrative costs, which he now pledges to cut back.
"I think we've made some progress, but facts are facts. My hope is that at this time next year you'll see incredible progress."
"Universities aren't businesses. When given a new task, since everybody is busy, the first thought is to bring someone else on to handle the task."
Bowles, a former White House Chief of Staff, has also managed in large and small business settings and led the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
But education, he said, is the most challenging field in which to manage.
"Education is more resistant to change," he said. "And it's more difficult to manage in than any of those other businesses."
On the hiring of chancellors: Bowles was asked whether he thought universities ought to be more open to hiring people like himself, "non-traditional" candidates with business backgrounds, to lead public university campuses.
"I think it's invaluable to have the breadth and experience for my job," he said. "But for the chancellor job, I really think you need a significant amount of experience on a campus. I didn't think that before I had a chance to manage in this field. [But] Having credibility with the faculty, and understanding the business, is not something that comes naturally to someone like myself."