Citizens Communications ( CZN) President Scott Schneider stepped down Thursday to explore other opportunities.Schneider's departure came as the rural phone company posted a 16% drop in sales from year-ago levels. Eroding sales in local and long distance phone service, combined with the company's $4.3 billion debt, have forced CEO Leonard Tow to find a buyer for the struggling outfit. Citizens said last month it had hired bankers to pursue alternatives, and the company said Thursday that it expects to make a decision on a possible sale or some other arrangement this summer. Given the state of the company, investors were not surprised by Schneider's decision. Shares of the Stamford, Conn.-based telco fell 7 cents to $13.16 in late morning trading Thursday. Schneider, 45, will stay on until the company decides its fate. "My departure is solely driven by my desires to pursue other options that may be available to me at this time in my career, and should not, under any circumstance, be taken as an expression of any concern with Citizens' business or prospects," he said in a Thursday press release.