JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
Missouri's top health official, who has led Missouri's health department through the entire coronavirus pandemic, has resigned.
Gov. Mike Parson's office said in a news release Tuesday that Parson had accepted Dr. Randall Williams' resignation. The release was issued as the St. Louis-Post Dispatch reported that Williams and the state's chief operating officer, Drew Erdmann, were leaving their posts.
Both men were hired in 2017 by former Gov. Eric Greitens.
Williams, who formerly held a similar position in North Carolina, has been a major presence during the pandemic. He appeared regularly beside Parson at coronavirus briefings and has repeatedly granted interviews to reporters around the state.
State Rep. Chuck Basye, R-Rocheport, said he was surprised by the sudden resignation and praised William for his work throughout the pandemic. "For something that was very tough on everybody, I thought he did a really good job of handling it," Basye said.
Democratic Rep. Richard Brown, D-Kansas City, also praised Williams' pandemic performance.
"It is going to be a tough job for a person that comes in, but I'm confident that a suitable replacement has been appointed by the governor," Brown said.
Williams was paid $143,420 in 2019.
Parson said in the news release that his deputy chief of staff, Robert Knodell, will be acting director of the Department of Health and Senior Services, effective immediately.
State Rep. LaDonna Appelbaum, D-St. Louis, said she is "concerned about having someone with no public health background be in charge of the state."
Appelbaum has criticized William his leadership during the pandemic and his department's tracking of women's menstrual cycles.
"I am happy to see Williams gone," Applebaum said.
Parson praised his now former director in a news release.
“Dr. Williams has been a huge asset to Missouri, especially this past year in dealing with COVID-19,” Parson said. “We greatly appreciate all the work he has done for the people of our state and wish him the best in his future endeavors.”
Parson's release did not give a reason for Williams' resignation.
Missouri House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, questioned why Williams is resigning unexpectedly in a news release.
“During his tenure at the Department of Health and Senior Services, Director Williams unethically tracked the menstrual cycles of Missouri women without their knowledge or consent, bungled the implementation of legalized medical marijuana, led the state’s failed response to COVID-19 and routinely refused to answer basic questions from lawmakers," Quade said. "Through it all he somehow managed to keep his job. With his sudden and unexplained resignation, one can’t help but wonder what finally convinced the governor to show him the door.”
Check back for updates to this developing story.