Tom Shannon, the third ranking official in the U.S. State Department said on Thursday that he will be resigning his post.
Shannon served as under secretary of state for political affairs for more than three decades. During his 34 years of service that included six presidents and 10 secretaries of state he is the most senior career diplomat at the Department. Shannon, 60, said he was resigning for personal reasons.
“My decision is personal, and driven by a desire to attend to my family, take stock of my life, and set a new direction for my remaining years,” after informing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday of his decision to retire, Shannon wrote in a note to staff.
According to Reuters, Shannon recently worked on some of the most complex and sensitive issues, including Iran’s compliance with the landmark nuclear deal and Washington’s fraught relations with Russia.
Since Trump became president, the majority of senior career diplomats have resigned, which has left the State Department deprived of experienced and professional career diplomats during a time when the U.S. is enveloped in heightened tensions with several nations the most problematic of which is North Korea and its ongoing nuclear program.
Shannon has been the most frequent choice for the most critical assignments throughout the years. His calm appearance, language skills and decades of experience and respect from the international community have made him one of the most successful diplomats in the last 50 years.
Few hours after the retirement was announced, Shannon addressed students at the Duke University in Durham, North Carolina where he stressed out that he is not stepping down due for political reasons.
“Events in my own life have taught me that while I was blessed in many ways, one thing I don’t have enough of right now is time,” he said to the students.
In a statement Thursday night, Tillerson congratulated Shannon on his distinguished career saying that his time was well spent.
“I particularly appreciate his depth of knowledge, the role he played during the transition … and his contributions to our strategy process over the past year,” Tillerson said.
Shannon agreed to remain on duty until a successor has been named and the transition has gone smoothly.