The chief at South Carolina’s health and environmental department is quitting after 31 years as a regulator, lobbyist and top executive at the often-criticized agency.
Earl Hunter’s decision, made public Friday in a 3:56 p.m. news release, surprised both his detractors and boosters, who said they could only speculate why the 55-year-old Lancaster County native chose to retire.
Hunter is the longest-serving commissioner in the state Department of Health and Environmental Control’s history. He took the job in 2001.
He was not made available for comment Friday and did not return a telephone call left on his cell phone. DHEC spokesman Thom Berry refused to discuss the decision, referring all questions to a carefully worded news release.
The news release said Hunter would remain with DHEC until February of next year and would help with the transition to a new agency chief. The release said he and the agency’s seven-member oversight board had discussed his leaving the $152,000-per-year job.