Advance Notice: Briefs

Biden taps former DHHS Director Gordon for federal health post

By: - August 18, 2021 4:20 pm

Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon | Casey Hull

Former Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Director Robert Gordon has been nominated by President Joe Biden for a key federal health post.

The White House on Wednesday evening announced his nomination for assistant secretary for financial resources at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). After being elected in November, Biden announced Gordon as one of the volunteer leads on his HHS transition team.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer tapped Gordon, a former Obama administration official, to lead DHHS in early 2019. He led the department through the COVID-19 crisis and ordered strong health restrictions during the fall 2020 surge before resigning on Jan. 22. Weeks later, it was made public that the former director’s separation agreement included a $155,000 severance and a confidentiality clause, which Republicans criticized. After Gordon’s resignation, Whitmer appointed Elizabeth Hertel, who previously served as DHHS senior chief deputy director for administration, to lead the department.

Gordon told a Michigan legislative panel in April that his abrupt resignation came after Whitmer said “she wanted to go in a different direction.”

He left Michigan for Washington, D.C., and is currently senior counselor at the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities and senior advisor for Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan.

A Yale Law School graduate, Gordon worked for the Legal Aid Society of New York and New York public school system. He joined the President Barack Obama administration at the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development. He developed programs related to maternal and infant home visiting, teen pregnancy prevention and education investment. He also oversaw the Administration for Children and Families and the Administration on Aging at the Department of Health and Human Services.

“It was incredibly exciting to work in the Obama administration,” Gordon told the Advance in a May 2019 interview. “I was there from the beginning, working for a new, amazing, historic president. And also working at a time of deep crisis for the American economy. … It was a very smart, committed group of people working at a difficult time, it was an honor,” Gordon said.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 21-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 4,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 70 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.