Neshoba County Superintendent of Education Joe Killens resigned Monday evening, about a year into his first term.

He told the county School Board  that after 30-plus years in education, it was time for him to retire and spend more time with his family.

School Board President Johnny Crenshaw said the board was “taken by surprise” by the resignation.

“It was a shock to us,” he said. “No one was expecting it.” Killens’ resignation is effective June 30.

Crenshaw said the School Board would begin the process of searching for the best possible candidate to succeed him, as under a new law, superintendents in Mississippi are now appointed and not elected.

“We will post the opening and go through the process of getting applicants,” Crenshaw said, noting that the position would be advertised through the Mississippi School Boards Association among others.

Under the new law, the School Board is not bound to appoint someone who lives in Neshoba County, Attorney Robert Thomas said.

They could appoint someone from another county or even from out-of-state, he said.

Killens, a Republican, was elected in November 2015 and has been in the office for just over a year.

In his letter of resignation, he told the School Board that he had prayed about the decision for several months.

“I have had a wonderful career,” he said. “The Lord has blessed my family more richly than we could ever deserve.”

Killens told the School Board that while he didn’t meet every goal he had for the district, “I would like to think that I have had a positive impact in some way.”

He told the board that while all of his decisions have not been popular, he had made each based on what he thought was best for the children and district.

“I do feel that the district will benefit greatly with you having the opportunity to appoint my successor,” Killens said. “I do feel that I have removed most of the politics from a very political position.”

Killens sent a lengthy email to the faculty Monday night explaining his sudden retirement.

‘We were close to being a great school when I took office and I still feel that we are very close to being just that, both academically and extra-curricular. We have so much to be proud of,” Killens wrote.

He said he had done his best to make decisions that were best for the children and district as a whole.

“I realize that many of them weren’t popular, but in my heart I feel they were the best for our district,” he said.

Killens said it was just time for him to resign.

“I missed my kids growing up because I thought my jobs were too important to take an afternoon off to go watch a softball game or golf match and it is time for me to devote the next 30 years to my family,” he said.

“I will still be ‘in charge’ until June 30, but I will put a ‘lot of stock’ into the opinions of the members of my administrative team as we make decisions that will affect the district after I am gone.”