The head of the state’s maximum security prison, which houses over 600 of Iowa’s most dangerous criminals, is resigning due to serious health issues.

Iowa State Penitentiary Warden Nick Ludwick announced today during a Board of Corrections meeting that he’ll step down at the end of this month.

“As many of you know, I’ve battled cancer now for 12 years, the last five-and-a-half of which have been Stage 4,” Ludwick said. “My oncologist told me it’s time now to go home and chase time with my wife and my loved ones and that’s what I’ll do.”

The 61-year-old Ludwick spoke by phone from Fort Madison to board members gathered in Des Moines. “I’ve worked 42 years in corrections. That’s a lifetime to many, but I’ve always maintained the reason I continue to work is I love what I do and I’m good at what I do. It doesn’t get much better than that,” Ludwick said.

The Board of Corrections approved the appointment of Patti Wachtendorf as the new warden of the Iowa State Penitentiary. She is currently the warden of the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women in Mitchellville. Taking her place will be Sheryl Dahm, who’s spent one year as warden of the Clarinda Correctional Facility.

A search will be conducted for a new warden at Clarinda.