Alaska natural resources commissioner retires; deputy named acting chief

JUNEAU — Alaska Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Mark Myers announced his retirement Tuesday, which he said was for personal reasons.

In a farewell email to department staff, he said his departure from state government will be effective March 1.

A spokeswoman said Myers wasn't available for an interview Tuesday. But he did phone into a meeting of municipal officials and told them his retirement was for personal reasons that include aging parents and "a wife who actually wants to see me on the weekends."

"I was not asked to leave," Myers said. "It's just time for me."

In a prepared statement, Gov. Bill Walker added: "I hate to lose Mark from the team. He had told me back in October that he wanted to retire, but I wanted to give him time to reconsider. I'm grateful the administration and the state were able to benefit from his experience, knowledge and expertise for as long as we've been able."

Deputy Commissioner Marty Rutherford will head the department on an acting basis.

The position is one of the most powerful in Walker's cabinet, with a big role in the natural gas pipeline megaproject that the state is developing along with three oil producers.

Myers, a former vice chancellor of research at University of Alaska Fairbanks, has served as commissioner since January 2015. He's also worked as the director of the U.S. Geological Survey.

In the Capitol, Myers was respected by lawmakers of both parties, having served under Walker, an independent backed by Democrats, as well as former Govs. Frank Murkowski and Sarah Palin, both Republicans.

Myers and Rutherford were both members of a group of employees who quit in protest in 2005 after Murkowski fired his natural resources commissioner, Tom Irwin.

"I'm glad we have good people like him in government," said Sen. Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak and an occasional Walker administration critic. "I'm just sad his tenure was so short."

A spokeswoman for Walker said a timeline had not been established to find a permanent replacement for Myers.