LIVERMORE -- In a surprise announcement, Parney Albright, director of the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory since 2011, is stepping down from the post on Oct. 31.
Albright made the abrupt revelation at an emotional and hastily-called meeting for all lab employees Thursday morning, during which he received several standing ovations.
"I cannot express in words how much of an honor it has been for me to work with you, and to see you continue to grow and flourish as a national security laboratory to make a difference for our nation," Albright said.
The National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees the lab for the Energy Department, issued a brief statement, in which acting Administrator Bruce Held praised Albright's work.
"I want to thank Parney Albright for his dedicated service to the nation, to DOE, and to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory," Held said. "LLNL is a key part of our nuclear security enterprise, and we are committed to supporting the important work done there every day."
NNSA representatives wouldn't comment on whether or not the lab's recent partial shutdown had anything to do with the decision. Albright was not immediately available for comment.
Lab employees were stunned by the announcement, which came a week after they returned to work from the shutdown. Bill Smith, a lab engineer and union member who attended the meeting, said his former boss will be remembered as a positive, unifying influence.
"He brought in a sensitivity to our nontraditional clients," Smith said. "He was really pushing hard on energy programs. ... He's definitely going to be missed."
Albright came to the lab in 2009, with a strong background in national security. In 2003, he was named assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, and worked for 15 years at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Prior to becoming director, he served as the lab's principal associate director for Global Security, where he headed cooperative efforts with national security and energy institutions.
Albright's tenure as director saw a number of significant milestones, lab officials said, including the National Ignition Facility, partnerships with the Sandia and Los Alamos national labs, and expansion of the Livermore Valley Open Campus (LVOC), a collaboration between Livermore and Sandia national labs and private industry.
"One of his biggest and largest legacies is his work with the cities in the Tri-Valley, and part of that was really pushing forth LVOC," said lab spokesman Jim Bono. "He did a marvelous job."
According to a news release, Albright will "pursue his broader interests and contributions to the U.S. national security enterprise." He will also relinquish the title of president of Lawrence Livermore National Security (LLNS), the private consortium that manages the lab.
Bret Knapp, principal associate director for weapons programs at Los Alamos National Laboratory, will serve as acting lab director and LLNS president on an interim basis starting Nov. 1. Knapp grew up in Livermore and worked for the lab for 26 years before moving on to Los Alamos.
The University of California will head a nationwide search for a new director, lab officials said.
Contact Jeremy Thomas at 925-847-2184. Follow him at Twitter.com/jet_bang.