Norman resigns as top administrator of Kansas health agency

November 19, 2021 GMT

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas’ top public health official has resigned, only days before the Legislature was set to convene a special session to consider proposals for pushing back against federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly announced Friday that Dr. Lee Norman had stepped down as both top administrator at the state Department of Health and Environment and state health officer. He’d been the health department’s top administrator since Kelly took office in January 2019.

Neither she nor Norman gave reasons for his resignation in statements released by her office. Kelly praised Norman as “the most consequential” leader in the department’s history, while Norman predicted the agency will have a “seamless continuity of operations.”

The Republican-controlled Legislature forced Kelly to call a special session that begins Monday. GOP lawmakers plan to consider measures to make it easier for workers to claim religious exemptions to COVID-19 vaccine mandates and to provide unemployment benefits to workers who lose their jobs after refusing to get vaccinated.

Norman’s departure came two weeks after Kelly expressed opposition publicly to vaccine mandates from President Joe Biden that affect more than 100 million workers. Norman was perhaps the most visible Kelly adviser early in the coronavirus pandemic but was less visible in recent months.