Two key Missouri lawmakers from opposite parties view Tuesday’s resignation of state Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) Director, Dr. Randall Williams, very differently.
Missouri House Health and Mental Health Policy Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Stephens (R-Bolivar) praises Dr. Williams, while House Minority Leader Crystal Quade (D-Springfield) says the resignation was long overdue.
Chairman Stephens says Williams did a fine job.
“We have lived through the year from hell that everybody got thrust into falling off a cliff into a dark abyss,” Stephens says.
Stephens says Dr. Williams never intended to stay in the position permanently, adding that his understanding is that Dr. Williams’ wife never moved to Missouri from North Carolina. Stephens also says Dr. Williams was responsive to lawmakers in both parties.
“And I think Dr. Williams has done a very credible job under circumstances that nobody else ever, ever, ever had to endure,” says Stephens.
Chairman Stephens also praises acting DHSS Director Robert Knodell, saying he knows and understands the bureaucracy. Stephens admits that Knodell is a “political guy” and not a medical person but says he doesn’t expect Knodell to be the permanent director. Stephens predicts the next DHSS director will have a bureaucratic and medical background.
As for Leader Quade, she blasts Dr. Williams and says his resignation is long overdue.
“We have seen Dr. Williams unethically track the menstrual cycles of women, without knowledge or consent. The implementation of legalized medical marijuana was through his department and has been a giant mess, in which the House has spent many months
investigating the rollout there,” Quade says.
Leader Quade refers to numerous hearings conducted by the bipartisan Missouri House Special Committee on Government Oversight, which focused on how licenses were approved. She has described Missouri’s medical marijuana rollout as “atrocious.”
Quade also tells Missourinet that Dr. Williams wasn’t responsive to questions from lawmakers about the vaccination rollout distribution.
“I can tell you from my office I had sent in a letter on behalf of the members of the (Missouri House) Health and Mental Health (Policy) Committee asking various questions of just how decisions were made and trying to get some answers for our constituents. And several weeks went by without any response from the office,” says Quade.
She says the lawmakers eventually received a meeting but that it took almost a month.
The top Democrat on the Missouri House Health and Mental Health Policy Committee, State Rep. LaDonna Appelbaum (D-St. Louis), is critical of Dr. Williams. Appelbaum has released a statement, which is also critical of Knodell.
“Knodell has no background in public health, and as the “czar’ of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, he shoulders much of the blame for the state’s early failures to provide vaccines to urban and suburban areas,” the statement reads, in part.
Governor Mike Parson (R) disagrees with that, saying that Knodell played an integral part in Missouri’s COVID response efforts.
“As Deputy Chief of Staff, Robert brings valuable knowledge and leadership experience to our team and the entire state of Missouri. For more than a year, he has also played a leading role in Missouri’s COVID-19 response efforts, and I am more than confident in him to take over as Acting Director of the Department of Health and Senior Services,” Governor Parson says, in a statement.