Marc Luiken, Alaska's commissioner of transportation, submitted his resignation to Gov. Sean Parnell. The resignation will be effective Oct. 1, 2012. The letter, dated Aug. 29, offered no explanation for the resignation. Luiken was traveling and wasn't available for comment.
Calls to the commissioner's office were referred to Sharon Leighow, Parnell's spokesperson, who said via email, "Governor Parnell appreciates the commissioner's service to the state. Commissioner Luiken is a hard-working man of integrity and we wish him well in his future endeavors."
Luiken joined the Alaska Department of Transportation in 2010 as deputy commissioner after 29 years in the U.S. Air Force, where, among other things, he managed a $42-million annual operating budget and a $51-million annual construction budget, including a major runway renovation project, according to the commission's website. Parnell appointed him commissioner in Nov. 2010.
Alaska's DOT has about 3,500 full and part time employees and has a budget this year of more than $1.7 billion in state and federal funds.
As deputy commissioner, he worked under Commissioner Leo Von Scheben, who was appointed by former Gov. Sarah Palin. Von Scheben said he was impressed with Luiken and was surprised he was resigning. "He's a nice man and a good family man." Von Scheben also described him as hard working and dedicated. After Von Scheben left the department, he continued to hear good things from DOT employees about Luiken.
Von Scheben also talked about how tough the job was. First, he said, was the challenge of trying to figure out how the state works, and all of the state's big transportation projects and challenges. The travel was also trying. But perhaps most challenging were the politics, he said.
"Knowing how to handle yourself around politicians is very difficult," he said. "I've seen these political positions tear apart people."
If there was tension between Parnell and Luiken -- or if the politics got to him--it's hard to find evidence of it in the resignation letter.
"My personal commitment throughout has been to loyally serve and support you as a friend, but more importantly as our Governor; to model our department's values of integrity, excellence and respect," he wrote. He wrote that while he was commissioner, the department "obligated and bid a record number of aviation, marine and road projects throughout the state in 2011, keeping the contracting community very busy this summer and contributing to jobs and economic opportunity for Alaska."
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