State DNR director says he'll resign when Nixon takes office

Sunday, December 14, 2008 | 4:24 p.m. CST

JOPLIN — Doyle Childers, director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources for the past four years, says he won't continue to serve under Gov.-elect Jay Nixon.

"I would definitely resign by the time Jay Nixon becomes governor. I would assume that Jan. 12 will be the date," Childers told The Joplin Globe.

Childers said he and Nixon have had an openly contentious relationship and that he would have been able to do more as the director of the DNR had he not been in continuous conflict with Nixon.

He said his time at the department was consumed by fights with Nixon. One confrontation was over a proposal to tear down the Katy Trail railroad bridge that crosses the Missouri River near Boonville, and another involved the cleanup of Johnson Shut-Ins State Park after a dam holding back the Taum Sauk Reservoir burst in Southeast Missouri.

"It made for more complications," Childers said. "The Boonville bridge, well, we beat him three times in court on that. It took up a lot of our time and effort. After that, Johnson Shut-Ins took a huge amount of time."

He said it's "no secret" that he and Nixon had been at odds.

"He's a good politician — an excellent politician — but I do not have a lot of respect for him as an individual," Childers said.

Oren Shur, a spokesman for Nixon, declined to respond.

Childers' departure has also raised questions about whom Nixon will choose to replace him. Shur said applicants were being reviewed but that Nixon was not commenting.

Environmental groups said they want Nixon to appoint a director who will take a tougher stand against polluters.

But in an e-mail to Margaret Donnelly, a member of the Nixon transition team, Ken Midkiff, chairman of the Sierra Club's Missouri Clean Water Campaign, said leaders of environmental organizations in Missouri had not been contacted for input on the selection for the DNR director.

"Environmental organizations ... have been routinely shunted to the side by the Blunt/Childers' regime," Midkiff wrote. "We had hoped for better from the Nixon administration, but so far we feel shut out."

After the e-mail was sent, Midkiff said he was contacted by Charles Bersin, head of transition for Nixon.

"Bersin called me and wanted to know what the environmental group's recommendations are. He said that he was planning on contacting us," Midkiff said. "We gave Bersin three names." Midkiff did not say who those people were.

Missouri Farm Bureau President Charles Kruse praised Childers, saying he "came into a very difficult job and worked hard to be fair."

He also said the next director "must be someone who will address the issues based upon facts and sound science, not emotion."


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