AUGUSTA — William Beardsley, the de facto leader of Gov. Paul LePage’s Department of Education, has resigned for personal reasons, LePage announced Wednesday.

Beardsley’s last day will be Dec. 23, 2016. He will be replaced by Robert G. Hasson, who will serve as acting commissioner.

“Bill Beardsley is a man of tremendous integrity, intellect and service,” said LePage in a written statement. “It has been a great asset to the state of Maine that a man of his caliber and experience returned to serve in our administration. Over the last year, his leadership has reshaped the Maine Department of Education to ensure every decision is focused on the best interest of students and that children from every corner of the state have access to a high-quality public education.”

Beardsley has led the department since 2015, following his service on the State Board of Education from 2012 to 2015. Beardsley, who previous served as commissioner of the Maine Department of Conservation, was president of Husson University in Bangor from 1987 to 2009. He was also an unsuccessful candidate for governor in the 2010 Republican primary.

Beardsley’s service to the Maine Department of Education was not without controversy. After Democrats indicated they might block his confirmation over concerns about Beardsley’s past, particularly some of his conservative views and his purported knowledge of alleged sexual misconduct by a disgraced pastor, LePage rescinded his nomination of Beardsley in February 2016.

LePage initially said he would serve as education commissioner but since then has appointed a series of deputy education commissioners in order to skirt the Legislature’s approval process but has made it clear that Beardsley was in charge.

Hasson currently oversees certification, educator effectiveness and higher education for the department. He is a former teacher, principal and superintendent and deputy executive director of the Maine School Management Association from 2013-2015.

Hasson said he is humbled by LePage’s nomination.

“The next two years will be critical to addressing major challenges in Maine public education,” said Hasson in a written statement. “Over the last six years, Governor LePage has demonstrated a commitment to improving education in Maine, and I firmly believe that we can make great strides to benefit all Maine students by pursuing the regional delivery of backend operations for school districts, closing the achievement gap, and strengthening professional learning for educators throughout the state.”

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