Menlove had told the Utah State Board of Education, which was concerned about turnover in education's top job, that he would stay five years when he moved up from deputy superintendent in 2012. He replaced Larry Shumway, who was superintendent for three years.
"I feel worse about that than anything about this situation," Menlove said.
Menlove said he and his wife, Ronda Rudd Menlove, had been discussing his possible early retirement for some months. "Part of the trigger is I have 30 years [of contributing to] retirement. Part is that I turned 62 in February and qualify for Social Security."
Rep. Ronda Menlove, R-Garland, recently announced she will not seek reelection to her House seat representing Box Elder County. She will continue working as senior vice provost at Utah State University, her husband said.
Menlove said it was a bit of a strain to live and work away from his home in Garland, which is about 75 miles north of Salt Lake City, where he keeps an apartment during the week. That was not a major factor, however, he said.
Gov. Gary Herbert Gov. Herbert applauded Menlove's nearly four decades in education. "His broad experience has been a benefit to Utah students and I wish him the best in his future endeavors," the governor said in a statement.
Utah Board of Education Chairman David L. Crandall said he and other board members were surprised to hear of Menlove's decision this week, but none expressed consternation over the fact it came earlier than expected.
"I'm just happy that we had the benefit of his expertise and talents for the time we have had," Crandall said.
The short tenures of the past two superintendents shouldn't be too surprising, he said. "We're hiring people toward the end of their careers, so it's never a huge surprise when they retire."
Crandall said he suspects Menlove's open-door policy led to stress. "That does lead to long hours, long weeks and long years.
"When you're dealing with something as important to people as public education, you get concern and passion from all over the place, from interest groups and both ends of the political spectrum."
Crandall said he doesn't see it as a coincidence that both Menlove and Shumway retired shortly after legislative sessions. The number of education bills that superintendents are expected to weigh in on during committee meetings is huge, he said. "That time of the year can be especially hard," Crandall said.
Menlove said, however, that he didn't consider the recent session a especially grueling one.
The superintendent will remain on the job until his replacement is in place. Crandall said Friday he hopes to have a new superintendent named by the end of the summer.
Menlove began working at the state Office of Education in 2009 as deputy superintendent after working as an administrator at school districts in Tooele, Rich, and Box Elder counties.
He gave his first State of Education address in November, focusing on his family's long involvement in education rather than politics. He briefly mentioned his budget request to the 2014 Legislature, and said four things kept him up at night: new end-of-year tests, which might result in lower test scores at first; the challenge of putting 2,000 to 3,000 new high-quality teachers in classrooms in the next few years; school safety in an era of tragedies; and whether schools are preparing students socially as well as academically for their futures.
Menlove began his public education career in 1976 as a fifth grade teacher in Jordan School District and has also worked as a school counselor, the state office said.
In the statement, Menlove said he doesn't have immediate plans for his retirement, but "finishing a family cabin construction project at Bear Lake that has taken longer than it should have ... sounds like a great place to start." He also said he wants to spend more time with family.
He and his wife would welcome an opportunity to serve a mission for the LDS Church, but one is not now planned, he said in an interview.