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Dr Lee Norman has no regrets when discussing KDHE’s departure

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Dr Lee Norman has no regrets when discussing KDHE’s departure

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) – Dr Lee Norman believes we cannot lower our guard against COVID-19, and he wants it to always be part of the state’s efforts to tackle the next phase of the pandemic.

Norman’s three-year tenure as secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment ended on Friday, with a press release from Governor Laura Kelly announcing his departure.

“I did not resign voluntarily. I’ve been asked to resign, ”Norman told 13 NEWS in an interview on Tuesday. “I feel really good about what we’ve accomplished as a state, as an agency, myself personally. I have no trouble sleeping at night.

Norman says he doesn’t know what ultimately led to his departure, but he acknowledged the email exchanges with Governor Kelly’s chief of staff Will Lawrence. First reported by the Kansas Reflector, the emails contain messages in which Lawrence warned Norman that his public comments could undermine the administration’s political efforts and reduced Norman’s media appearances. Norman says he didn’t think he was getting political.

“It’s true that public health is political, but it shouldn’t be as partisan as it has become,” Norman said. “But – no confusion about that – I respect (Lawrence). I enjoyed working with him and the rest of the staff in the governor’s office.

Norman said the nature of running a large, multi-faceted organization will inevitably result in procedures that sometimes run counter to policy.

“When you’re busy running day-to-day operations in the midst of the largest casualty-killing infectious disease event in US history – just to put it in perspective – managing day-to-day operations when it comes to life. is about politics, so … you get a bit of perspective. And that’s what you saw, ”he said.

Norman said he believed he and the governor’s office simply had a “fundamental difference of opinion” on how much information to release and when to release it.

“I wanted to be more transparent with all the information we have, trust the public to take that information and do what they want with it. I think the governor’s office wanted a script a little more specific than that and I think it worried them that I was going to release information that just wasn’t ready to release yet, ”he said. . “I feel the need to provide more information so that the policies and everything we do make sense, because otherwise it’s kind of a vacuum. Where does this policy come from?

Norman was also known for speaking out against disinformation and public servants on social media. A recent example came earlier this month, when House Speaker Ron Ryckman posted a tweet condemning comments made during a legislative committee hearing that compared restrictions for the unvaccinated to the ‘Holocaust. Norman replied, “It makes me wonder who allows and encourages these places for such bad behavior to occur. Need them ? “

“I pretty much always said what I wanted to say,” Norman said. “You know, the words that come out of my mouth are my words. Now if they have a consequence that I can’t predict and someone is bruised, sorry – but I think it’s important to really say what’s on your mind.

The information he wants people to know today is that the pandemic is not over.

“We cannot let our guard down over the coming weeks,” he said. “Really, from now until the first of the year, I think that’s going to be a big question mark.”

Even with his departure, Norman said he fully supports the efforts of Governor Kelly and his administration.

“In fact, I think his response to this pandemic has been a model of success. Its management has been superb, ”he said.

As for his role in this response, Norman says he has no regrets.

“I am not a victim. I could be a victim of what happened. I don’t doubt how I got here, ”he said. “If I had been on the sidelines, I would have been fit to be tied. You know, put me in it, coach! I wouldn’t have wanted to sit on the sidelines.

Norman isn’t sure what’s next, even if he doesn’t want to retire. He remains a colonel in the United States Army and is still on the faculty of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Kansas.

13 NEWS has contacted the governor’s office several times since Friday for a response to Norman’s departure. They did not comment beyond the initial press release, thanking him for his service.

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