John Burness, vice president for public affairs and government relations, will retire in June 2008 from the administrative position he has held since 1991, University officials announced Monday.

"I've been lucky," Burness told The Chronicle. "I've been at Duke during an extraordinary time. It's been very, very exciting and very, very rewarding."

During his time at Duke, he was responsible for the University's Office of News and Communications, contact with outside reporters, and Duke-Durham community affairs.

Burness plans to officially step down June 30, he said in a statement.

"John has directed every aspect of the University's relations to the media," President Richard Brodhead said in an interview with The Chronicle. "Duke has become a much more visible university in the past 10 to 15 years, and that's partly John's doing."

Brodhead has appointed Divinity School Dean Gregory Jones to chair a 12-person search committee of faculty, trustees, administrators and alumni that will identify potential candidates for Burness' vacated position, he said in a statement.

Brodhead said Burness was instrumental in establishing the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership, a program that has formed relationships with 12 neighborhoods and the seven public schools and one charter school within them.

"As a founder of the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership, John had a key role in helping Duke play a more active and constructive part in the City of Durham," Brodhead said in the statement. "Further afield, he has also masterminded government relations, and projected Duke to the larger world."

Burness said he informed Brodhead of his plans to retire following the 2007-2008 academic year when he was reappointed to his position in 2005. He added that he timed the announcement for late October in order to leave the search committee enough time to find a replacement.

Brodhead said the search committee will look for a replacement who will be able to use new media technology as a part of his or her job.

"We are looking for someone who can help us build the kind of communications apparatus a great university is going to need in the next decade," Brodhead said. "It will have to be someone who can work with both old and new media, has a sense of all the audiences the University wants to reach and has a strong sense of the value of education and research."

Despite negative publicity brought on by the lacrosse case and its resulting lawsuits, Burness said qualified candidates will not hesitate to seek out his position.

"I have every confidence they will get an absolutely first-class person for this job," he said. "We've all been distracted, obviously, by lacrosse, but there are terrific opportunities at this university."

Burness said he may use his newfound free time to write or teach on the topic of higher education, but added that what he most looks forward to is the opportunity to relax.

"It's the nature of this job-it's a 70-hour week, and I'm not as young as I used to be," Burness said. "I really want to do a lot of reading, I want to smoke a lot of good cigars and I want to put my feet up."