Jim Ayers, chief of staff to Gov. Tony Knowles for seven years, announced today that he will resign effective Jan. 4.
Ayers will become regional director of Oceana, a newly formed international organization with a mission of protecting oceans and fisheries.
The announcement comes as the administration starts its final year. The state constitution prohibits Knowles from seeking a third term.
"For seven years, the longest tenure of any chief of staff that I'm aware of, Jim Ayers has been at the forefront of every major issue that we have tackled," Knowles said in a news release.
"I think we've accomplished a lot for children in the state, despite a lot of obstacles and opposition," Ayers said in an interview this morning, citing child protection and health care initiatives. "We now approach 100 percent response to children in peril. ... We've increased funding for education; we've increased standards for education."
The administration also worked with the oil industry to open the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska and to develop the Alpine and Northstar projects, but also protected the environment, he said. "We told all industries we were going to do it right. We've done a major job of cleaning up the ocean waters within our jurisdiction."
Ayers will remain in Juneau is his role as director of Oceana for the North Pacific region.
"The opportunity is there now, not a year from now," he said.
Ayers, 55, previously was deputy commissioner of the state Department of Fish and Game and director of the Alaska Marine Highway System.
A new chief of staff will be named before Ayers' departure, according to the governor's office.