The second in command at the California High-Speed Rail Authority, Dennis Trujillo, will leave the organization by the end of the year, according to an internal announcement.
Trujillo, chief deputy director at the authority, was among a wave of executives brought in by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2012 after he decided to commit his political future to the $64 billion bullet train project.
When Trujillo arrived, the authority was riddled with vacancies in a number of key executive jobs. Dan Richard, rail authority board chairman, said one of his top priorities was filling the ranks so the project could solve some of its problems.
The rail authority's senior staff learned of Trujillo's exit in an email from chief executive Jeff Morales, who made light of the departure by noting that Trujillo needs to work on his golf game and may be wearing shorts in the future.
Rail authority spokeswoman Lisa Marie Alley confirmed that Trujillo is leaving, saying that he would be pursuing other opportunities.
Trujillo's departure stirred speculation among rail authority insiders about who else among Brown's political appointees will leave the agency during his last two years as governor.
Brown's successor will likely come in with a different agenda that will affect how the project progresses—or if it will even survive.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is running for the office, has signaled that he has some grave concerns about the project's execution and has raised expectations that he could possibly kill the entire project.
Legislative leaders this summer made clear that they are not willing to commit additional state money, despite a shortfall triggered by lower greenhouse gas fees that the state has raised for the construction.
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) said in a recent interview that the legislature had already taken care of the project with the existing appropriation, despite the funding problem.
"They will have to do something," Rendon said. "The reality is that some things have to be cut when revenues aren't what was expected."
Trujillo has moved through various agencies in the state government, previously working at the state treasurer's office as deputy and at the Department of Business Transportation and Housing.
"I am very proud of what this team has accomplished," Trujillo said in a statement. "Against significant odds and opposition, we secured funding and have over 100 miles of construction underway."