06/01/2011 05:33 EDT | Updated 08/01/2011 05:12 EDT

Dimitri Soudas, Harper Spokesman, Steps Down

THE CANADIAN PRESS -- OTTAWA - Stephen Harper's pitbull chief spokesman is leaving the Prime Minister's Office after nine years dogging the heels of the news media.

Longtime loyalist Dimitri Soudas, Harper's fifth communications director in six years, announced Wednesday that he'll "start a new chapter" in his life in September.

Soudas, 31, has been Harper's communications director since April 2010. Before that, he worked as a press secretary and served as a Quebec adviser to the prime minister.

"He has served the prime minister with immense passion, loyalty and commitment, not to mention sacrifice," PMO spokeswoman Sara MacIntyre said in an email.

She said those who have worked with the indefatigable father of three young children "remain in awe of his dedication, loyalty and tenacity."

Soudas is a fierce partisan and Harper defender who has had a tempestuous relationship with the parliamentary press gallery and has often found himself at the centre of controversy -- something political spokesmen generally try to avoid.

His most recent brush with trouble came during the recent election campaign. Soudas was named as the "real boss of Quebec" in a phone conversation between two purported Montreal construction industry bosses negotiating how to get allies appointed to the Montreal Port Authority.

Harper paid tribute to his spokesman last week by visiting a village in Greece that was the scene of a Second World War Nazi massacre that claimed the life of Soudas's grandfather.

It's not known who will replace Soudas.