ST. LOUIS–One day after Missouri Governor Mike Parson was forced to name a new acting director of the state health department when a faction of State Senators objected to his nominee, Don Kauerauf, local health officials are coming to Kauerauf’s defense.

“I’m so deeply disgusted by this. Don is a good man and Director, who did not deserve this. He always answered my call, answered any question transparently and always helped where he could,” Mati Hlatshwayo Davis, the St. Louis Director of Health said on Twitter Wednesday.

Kauerauf was forced to resign in the wake of a constitutional deadline that his nomination be confirmed by Friday. Anti-vaccine and anti-mask demonstrators took to the Capitol on Monday, when a Senate committee hearing was dealing with his nomination.

Members of the Senate Gubernatorial Appointments Committee spent nearly two hours questioning Kauerauf about COVID and abortion. 

“What is your stance on life?,” Sen. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove, said. 

“I’m pro-life,” Kauerauf said. “It’s responsible as public health people that once the child is born, the issue isn’t done. It’s a job to make sure that those kids grow up in an environment that they have the screenings, that they have access to health care. The answer is yes, I’m pro-life, but I’m also pro-public health.”

Kauerauf took over of DHSS after Dr. Randall Williams was asked to resign in April. Since being appointed, Kauerauf has reiterated multiple times, he’s against mandates but for masking and the vaccine. 
“My position has been that as public health, our job has been to provide you with accurate information, it is between the individual and their physician to be able to make that determination should they get vaccinated or not,” Kauerauf said. 

Outside the committee room, demonstrators help their signs saying, “If Kauerauf stays, then Parson goes,” and falsely accusing Kauerauf of supporting mandates. It was enough that Parson was compelled to issue a statement Monday night decrying disinformation.

But by Tuesday, with Senate conservatives still bucking the nomination, and with business at the Capitol shutting down for the week due to the winter snowstorm blanketing the state, Kauerauf ultimately resigned.

“It’s unfortunate that we now have to disrupt state operations and the leadership at an entire department because the Missouri Senate chose to indulge a few men’s egos,” Parson said Tuesday.

“This attack on public health in Missouri MUST stop now because actual lives are at stake, Hlatshwayo Davis tweeted.

Parson named Richard Moore, currently General Counsel for DHSS, to run the department in the interim while the Governor “will further evaluate the state’s options in the coming days,” his office said Tuesday.