Byer said he plans to pursue his own passions while continuing to work with area nonprofits on a project basis.
"Museums are sort of like a merry-go-round," Byer said. "There's a time to jump off, and when you do so, not significantly impact the museum in terms of its programming. So this was really the best time for me to leave."
Colburn said that the museum is looking within its ranks for a replacement at the moment, and plans to reconfigure the position into more of a full-time job.
Byer said the position has opened up doors within a town he has lived in for years.
"The museum allowed me, as a man who commuted out of town for my entire career in California, to work at what I feel is the most important cultural institution in town," Byer said. "It allowed me to insert myself into the community in a way I was never able to before. I've met more people in the past six years than in the previous 18; that's been a really wonderful thing."
A Laguna resident for more than 20 years, Byer attended Rutgers University and the George Washington University in Washington, D.C., followed by a stint working on a presidential campaign. Later jobs took him from working for a member of Congress to a trade association and a public relations firm.
He spent 17 years at a large health-care corporation, establishing and then running their public affairs operation, before taking a year off and beginning at the museum in Jan. 2001.
"I was able to morph myself from someone who worked with very dry health policy into a person that worked in the arts," Byer said. "I've made some really important friends that I'll have for quite a long time, and that will always be a big treasure to me."