Dr. Randall Williams steps down as Missouri’s health director


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Governor Parson accepted a letter of resignation from Dr. Randall Williams earlier today. He has named Deputy Chief of Staff Robert Knodell as Acting Director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Drew Erdmann, Chief Operating Officer, has also resigned today.

“Dr. Williams has been a huge asset to Missouri, especially this past year in dealing with COVID-19,” Governor Parson writes. “We greatly appreciate all the work he has done for the people of our state and wish him the best in his future endeavors.”

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade (D-Springfield) said in a statement Tuesday she was glad to see Williams resign. 

“Williams led the state’s failed response to COVID-19 and routinely refused to answer basic questions to 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.”

Parson did not say why Williams was resigning but said he appointed Deputy Chief of Staff Robert Knodell as Acting Director of the department of health. 

 Robert Knodell

Knodell served as Deputy Chief of Staff to Governor Parson since 2017. The governor’s office says that he has taken a leading role in vaccine rollout and distribution in Missouri.

“For more than a year, he has also played a leading role in Missourian’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,” Parson said. 

Representative LaDonna Appelbaum (D-St. Louis) serves on the House Health and Mental Health Committee, doesn’t think Knodell is fit for the job.

“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,” Appelbaum said. “Missouri still places near the bottom of states for percentage of the population vaccinated. Missourians deserve a DHSS director with experience in public health who will use the authority of the office to help the people of this state, instead of boosting his political profile. That would be a welcome departure from what we’ve had the past four years.”

Our Missouri Chief Capitol Bureau Reporter Emily Manley reached out to Parson’s office asking to see the resignation letters and to see if there was a reason why Erdmann and Willaims resigned but has not heard back.

Manley also reached out to Williams, but he has not returned her phone call.

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