After a little more than two years leading the Britt Festivals, executive director Rick Hood plans to leave the organization in mid-May.

After a little more than two years leading the Britt Festivals, executive director Rick Hood plans to leave the organization in mid-May.

A former ballet dancer with a master's degree in business administration from Harvard Business School, Hood said Monday he and the board came to a mutual agreement that he would move on.

Britt Classical Festival administrator Angela Warren, who has been with Britt for 17 years, will serve as interim executive director under a succession plan developed last year, officials said.

The board expects to begin a search for a new executive director later this year, which is the organization's 47th.

Neither side hinted at any conflict in Hood's departure, despite a half-million dollar deficit announced by Britt late in 2008.

"It was a tremendous pleasure to be at Britt," Hood said. "It is a wonderful organization and I feel encouraged about its future."

Hood was hired in January 2007 and started work in February of that year. He oversaw planning for three Britt seasons, spearheaded the development and implementation of a new strategic plan, focused on board development and training, and made significant progress in plans for redesigning the Britt park entrance, a statement announcing his departure said.

Hood said he was particularly proud of the process to create a strategic plan that will keep Britt sustainable through tough times in a changing music industry, as well as building partnerships with the city of Jacksonville, Jackson County, and the Jackson County Fair Board, which oversees the Lithia Motors Amphitheater where the festival presents some large shows.

Board president Alan Harper said the strategic plan for the organization and a master plan for renovations at the hillside amphitheater "will be a great legacy for Rick."

"These plans remind us what we want to accomplish and what's important to us and the community."

Harper said the board understood that Hood wanted to evaluate how he could influence the organization when took the festivals' helm after the retirement of long-time executive director Ron McUne, who headed the organization for 20 years as it transformed from an organic, volunteer-run effort to a showcase for top acts.

"Rick picked up where Ron left off and brought a lot of new, positive change," Harper said.

Britt did, however, experience difficult economic times during Hood's tenure, as the economy faltered. The organization had to deal with rising artist fees and lower than expected revenue from ticket sales, memberships, cash sponsorships and interest income. That resulted in a nearly $500,000 budget deficit announced in late 2008.

Both Hood and Harper, however, expressed enthusiasm for the coming season and the festivals' long-term prospects.

Hood, who will step down May 15, said he plans to stay in the Rogue Valley and is exploring "a few ideas" for his next career move, but wasn't ready to discuss any of them.

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4485, or e-mail aburke@mailtribune.com.