Updated with details at 11:30 p.m.
FAIRBANKS — The chief executive officer of Golden Valley Electric Association abruptly resigned Monday, citing plans to return to the Lower 48 to pursue new opportunities.
Brian Newton resigned “effective immediately,” according to a news release posted on the website of the Fairbanks-based electric cooperative.
Newton has been the head of GVEA for more than four years, a time when he has drawn criticism for his participation in the recent Healy Clean Coal Project rallies and his $455,000 annual compensation, according to 2010 tax documents. He said his public involvement didn’t play a role in his departure and said he stands by his actions.
“I’ve always been a public figure,” he said. “It comes with the job. I still support what I did and support their activities to get (the Healy Clean Coal Project) online.”
Of his wages, he said his replacement will be paid “exactly the same amount. It would be no different if were anybody else.”
Newton was cautious when asked about the abruptness of the departure.
“There’s never a perfect time,” he said in a phone interview. “I’ve been thinking about it for a while. … I’m just making the move now. It’s just one of those things that happens.”
He said it was simply his desire to pursue “new opportunities” and spend time with his family, not a conflict with the GVEA board of directors or anyone else.
“Not any more than the normal conflicts that exist in anything,” he said. “There’s just other opportunities.”
Newton didn’t elaborate on those opportunities when asked and said he had no immediate plans for a new job. Instead, he said he likely plans to return to the Midwest, where much of his family lives.
Newton leaves work on a liquid natural gas trucking project uncompleted but says he believes the project is in good hands.
“I think it’s on track,” he said. “We’ve got good staff and good employees. I had everybody assigned, it was well under way and my role is not critical.”
The board is expected to vote later this year on whether to proceed with the project.
The GVEA board appointed Cory Borgeson, the utility’s corporate attorney, as interim president and CEO. Borgeson is a partner in Borgeson & Kramer, a Fairbanks law firm that also represents the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
The news release said the board will hire an executive search firm to fill the position.
“On behalf of GVEA’s Board of Directors we extend our sincerest appreciation to Mr. Newton,” said Bill Nordmark, chairman of the board, in the news release.
“We wish him and his family continued success in their future endeavors whatever those may be.”
No members of the board returned messages for comment on the story Monday evening.
Contact staff writer Matt Buxton at 459-7544.