MDHHS Director Robert Gordon announces resignation

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Robert Gordon, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services director who has helped guide the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, is resigning.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has appointed Elizabeth Hertel to take over as head of MDHHS.

Gordon announced his resignation Friday afternoon in a Twitter post.

He did not attend a Friday morning press conference alongside the governor in which she announced restaurants would be allowed to reopen dining rooms Feb. 1 with capacity restrictions, even though as director of MDHHS he became responsible for issuing, revising and lifting coronavirus restrictions after the Michigan Supreme Court tossed out the law that gave Whitmer the power to do so.

He did not explain why he was resigning now. While he said he “looked forward to the next chapter,” he did not say what that chapter would be. He said it had been an “honor to serve alongside wonderful colleagues.”

Whitmer appointed Gordon to his post as chief of MDHHS in January 2019. He previously worked for the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, as well as the New York City Department of Education.

Hertel is being promoted from senior chief deputy director for administration of MDHHS, where her responsibilities have included communications, finance and administration, legislative services, legal affairs, policy and planning, strategic information, organizational service, workforce engagement, and community and faith engagement. She has been with MDHHS since 2013.

An undated courtesy photo of Elizabeth Hertel, director of  the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. 
An undated courtesy photo of Elizabeth Hertel, director of  the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. 

“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 in a statement announcing her appointment to director. “She has served across multiple administrations from both parties, and knows how to bring people together to get things done. In her service to the state, she has proven time and again that she will do everything in her power to ensure the health and safety of Michigan families everywhere. Ending the COVID-19 pandemic is going to take hard work and partnership between state government, businesses, and organizations across the state. I know that Elizabeth is ready and eager to start working with partners everywhere to get it done.”

“As we work to ramp up distribution of the safe and effective COVID vaccine and end the pandemic, I am eager to work with Governor Whitmer and her administration to keep Michiganders safe and healthy,” Hertel stated in the same release. “I am grateful for the opportunity to lead the department at this time. Michigan is faced with a crisis unlike any we have seen before, but our aggressive action against this virus is working. Let’s finish the job and end the COVID-19 pandemic once and for all.”

While Michigan recently saw a surge in virus cases in November, the state overall has fared much better overall than many others in terms of cases. Like other states, its coronavirus vaccine rollout has gone slower than many had hoped, with local and state officials blaming the federal government for not directing enough doses to Michigan.