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Michigan's top health official abruptly resigns without explanation, deputy replaces him

Craig Mauger, The Detroit News on

Published in News & Features

LANSING, Mich. — Robert Gordon, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and a key, but controversial figure in the state's response to COVID-19, announced his resignation Friday from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's administration.

Gordon gained the public spotlight after the Michigan Supreme Court ruled Oct. 2 that Whitmer had violated her constitutional power by continuing to issue executive orders to combat COVID-19 without the approval of state lawmakers. The governor's administration quickly shifted to using epidemic orders issued by Gordon under the Public Health Code to require masks be worn and impose restrictions on public gatherings.

The former state health director became the target of a group of protesters last month who demonstrated outside his home and yelled through a bullhorn.

Gordon's announcement means the abrupt departure of a department leader who's pushed for changes to expand health care access but has clashed with Republican lawmakers — some of whom welcomed Friday's development.

"It's been an honor to serve alongside wonderful colleagues," Gordon tweeted. "I look forward to the next chapter."

Within 20 minutes of Gordon's post, Whitmer's administration announced that Elizabeth Hertel would become the new director of the Department of Health and Human Services. Hertel serves as the senior chief deputy director for administration for the department.

 

"Elizabeth Hertel has dedicated her career to protecting Michiganders’ public health, and she is uniquely prepared to lead MDHHS as we continue working together to end the COVID-19 pandemic," Whitmer said.

But the governor's office didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on why Gordon left, and Gordon's social media post provided no other details. The announcement of Hertel's selection featured only one sentence about Gordon, who led the state's health department during a pandemic that's lasted 10 months.

"Robert Gordon has resigned from his position, and the governor has accepted his resignation," the news release from the governor's office said.

Later Friday, Whitmer tweeted, "I am grateful to Director Gordon for his service and excited to move forward with Director Hertel’s expertise and experience at the helm as we continue to work together to end the COVID-19 pandemic."

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