Virginia Buckingham, a former press aide to two governors, announced late Thursday she would leave her $150,000-a-year job effective Nov. 15 to give Acting Gov. Jane Swift more flexibility to revamp the Massachusetts Port Authority, long a haven for political patronage.
Swift denied reports she had pressured Buckingham to leave, and praised the departing Massport executive director for carrying out her duties "with professionalism and dignity."
"This was her decision," Swift said.
Buckingham, criticized from the start of her term for a lack of aviation experience, has been under heightened scrutiny since Sept 11 because of repeated security problems at Logan.
"The fact that our airport was used in an unimaginable plot that killed thousands of innocent people is something I will carry in my mind and heart forever," she said. She added that she felt now was the "right time for me to move on."
Rising from campaign intern, Buckingham served as press secretary and chief of staff under Govs. William F. Weld and Paul Cellucci.
Cellucci appointed her to take over Massport in late 1999 after Executive Director Peter Blute embarrassed the agency when he was caught on a taxpayer-funded booze cruise.
A special commission is expected to recommend before the end of the year that a new executive director have broader management and aviation experience.
Massport Aviation Director Thomas Kinton will serve as interim executive director.