Howard Lewis, president and chief operating officer of Morrisville-based SlickEdit, is stepping down from his position after nine months with the firm but will continue to serve the editing software development company as a member of its board of directors.

Sandy Smith, director of product management and marketing for SlickEdit, confirms that Lewis is “retiring from the company” and adds that Lewis was brought on last year to increase SlickEdit’s market position, a task which Smith says is now complete.

Jill Maurer, co-founder and chief executive officer of the company, says she is looking forward to assuming control of SlickEdit’s day-to-day operations, a responsibility she held since launching the firm 14 years ago with her husband Clark, who originally wrote the code for SlickEdit and is somewhat of a celebrity in programming circles. She ran the company until Lewis was convinced to join the company in June 2001 by chairman Andre Boisvert. Boisvert knew Lewis from their days as co-workers at IBM and Cary-based Seer Technologies.

Maurer says the couple made the decision to hire Lewis last year because the company was “going through a lot of changes, a period of great growth, and we needed help managing that growth.”

Lewis was unavailable for comment but an official announcement is planned later in the week, according to Smith.

Company officials say SlickEdit grew at a 30 percent clip in 2001 under Lewis’ leadership, and that similar returns are expected this year. They declined to reveal any specifics regarding the finances of the privately held firm.

SlickEdit has won the 2001 Riding the Crest Award for best-selling editor for the second year in a row, given by online software reseller Programmer’s Paradise, and for best-selling Linux tool in 1999. The company also was named to the 2001 North Carolina Technology Fast 50, a ranking of the 50 fastest growing technology companies in the state based on five-year percentage revenue growth, in this case stretching from 1996 through 2000.

SlickEdit is somewhat of an anomaly in today’s world of imploding technology companies, and its history reads like a classic American success story. Before the Maurers formed the company Clark was working with IBM in Somers, NY, where he developed several of Big Blue’s most-used internal products, including an editor’s tool called “E.” IBM fat cats offered Clark a $10,000 bonus to show how much they appreciated his product saving them close to $10 million in development costs. Jill first convinced Clark to return and ask for 1 percent of the savings and when the IBM executives said no she then urged him to quit and launch his own company.

The Maurers used that $10,000 bonus and another $10,000 they received from the sale of assets to launch the company and never had to seek any outside assistance. Company officials say SlickEdit has been profitable every year since its inception and that the program is used by more than 140,000 customers worldwide, including SAS and Cisco Systems.

To this day the Maurers are still the majority shareholders in the company although employees are now offered an undisclosed method of ownership in the firm. But SlickEdit has never had to seek outside funding. The company, which called itself MicroEdge until October 2001, employs about 30 workers at its 13,000 square foot facility located on the outskirts of Research Triangle Park.