Durham City Attorney Patrick Baker leaving the Bull City. See where he’s going

Durham City Attorney Patrick Baker, pictured here after a City Council meeting on Monday, Jan. 7, 2019, where he announced that he is resigning to take a job as city attorney for Charlotte.
Durham City Attorney Patrick Baker, pictured here after a City Council meeting on Monday, Jan. 7, 2019, where he announced that he is resigning to take a job as city attorney for Charlotte. dvaughan@newsobserver.com

Durham City Attorney Patrick Baker is leaving the Bull City to become Charlotte’s new city attorney, starting in March.

The city of Charlotte announced Monday that Baker has been hired at a salary of $254,000.

In a news release, Charlotte cited Baker’s “extensive experience in municipal law, including civil litigation, employment law, constitutional law, land use, public records and legislative advocacy.”

Baker’s annual salary in Durham, with a raise this year, is $223,982.

Baker gave reporters a copy of his resignation letter on Monday night before the Durham City Council meeting. Dated Monday, Baker wrote to Mayor Steve Schewel that his resignation is effective March 8.

“Serving you, this and past City Councils and administrations as well as all of the past and current residents of the City of Durham over the last 21 years has been the honor of a lifetime,” Baker wrote. “On behalf of my wife Rae Ann and my children Griffin and Chloe, we cannot express enough our appreciation for all of the opportunities afforded to us in this amazing community.”

Baker also read the letter aloud during the council meeting.

Durham Mayor Steve Schewel said that when council members heard, “we all felt the same thing, which was happiness for you, gratitude for your great work here and a sense of loss because we really are going to miss you in every way.”

Schewel called Baker’s departure a tremendous loss for Durham, but wished him godspeed at his new job in Charlotte. Schewel also thanked him for giving Durham 60 days’ notice for a transition. Baker will only take a few days between jobs. He said he will start in Charlotte around March 11.

Baker said after the meeting Monday night that the 60 days’ notice is in his contract, but that he needs that time to get his files together. Baker said his children are in college now and he and his wife are “the proverbial empty nesters.”

Baker said that at age 51, he decided he had one last career challenge in him, and that Charlotte is the only city he’d leave Durham for.

He was born at Camp LeJeune and grew up in Havelock. Baker’s bachelor’s and law degrees are both from Wake Forest University. He moved to Durham in 1993 right out of law school, working first at a private law firm, then at Durham City Hall across the street starting in 1997.

“I spent my entire career at the corner of Chapel Hill and Mangum [streets],” he said.

There will be more work at Baker’s new job, which has more than twice as many staff attorneys.

“Patrick’s diverse skill set, effective counsel and collaborative approach to leadership will benefit our entire city,” Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles said in a release.

Baker is the latest of three high-profile recent departures from City Hall — Transportation Department Director Terry Bellamy left to lead transportation and public works in Prince George’s County, Maryland. And Bryan Poole, a Durham transportation planner involved with bicycle, pedestrian and scooter issues, is leaving to work for Portland, Oregon.

Interim city attorney named

On Thursday, the city named Kimberly M. Rehberg interim city attorney effective March 9.

Rehberg currently serves as a senior assistant city attorney for Durham and has nearly 20 years of experience in legal issues for local governments, including 14 years with the Durham City Attorney’s Office, according to a news release.

Before joining the office, Rehberg was an assistant professor at the School of Government at UNC-Chapel Hill, an assistant county attorney for Durham County and assistant general counsel for the N.C. Association of County Commissioners.