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MDHHS Director Robert Gordon resigns abruptly


Michigan Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon announced his resignation on Friday via Twitter, without offering explanation. 

“Today, I am resigning from the Whitmer Administration,” Gordon said in a tweet Friday around 3 p.m. “It's been an honor to serve alongside wonderful colleagues. I look forward to the next chapter.”

Gordon’s resignation came just hours after signing a revised public health order allowing restaurants to resume indoor dining on February 1. Then Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s office released a lengthy press release announcing Gordon’s appointed successor: Elizabeth Hertel, who until now was the Senior Chief Deputy Director for Administration for MDHHS.

While the announcement was long on praise for Hertel, it acknowledged Gordon’s resignation with the briefest of statements at the end: “Robert Gordon has resigned from his position, and the governor has accepted his resignation.” 

“Today, I appointed Elizabeth Hertel as Director of @MichiganHHS,” Whitmer said in a tweet. “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.”

Gordon, who assisted President Biden’s transition team, previously worked in the Obama administration. But his role at MDHHS didn’t initially put him in the public eye, until the Michigan Supreme Court’s ruling upended Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s emergency powers. Gordon stepped in, and began issuing wide-reaching orders that temporarily closed indoor dining in bars and restaurants, businesses like movie theaters, and limited social gatherings. 

Like Whitmer’s executive orders before them, Gordon’s directives have drawn criticism from impacted businesses, but have so far withstood multiple legal challenges.


Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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