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Isom stepping down as head of Missouri Department of Public Safety

Dan Isom at a news conference last fall with Gov. Jay Nixon.
Dan Isom at a news conference last fall with Gov. Jay Nixon.

Gov. Jay Nixon's office confirmed late Wednesday that former St. Louis Police Chief Daniel Isom was stepping down from his new job as director of the Missouri Department of Public Safety.

Nixon chose Isom last fall, amid the unrest in Ferguson. The former chief was only confirmed in January.Isom's decision to step down touched off unrest in the state Capitol, with allies blaming the governor for Isom's swift exit.

“I am extremely disappointed that Dr. Isom must not have been given the leeway to make reforms necessary after the unrest in Ferguson,” said state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, who had led the Senate effort to confirm Isom.

Nasheed said in a statement Wednesday that she had talked to Isom before the confirmation of his departure by the governor's office.

Various sources asserted that Isom had become frustrated with the lack of support from Nixon's office.  A spokesman with the University of Missouri-St. Louis confirmed Wednesday afternoon that Isom planned to end his leave of absence and return to his full-time position on the university’s faculty.

In a statement late Wednesday, Nixon made no reference to any discord. “Over the last six months, Dan Isom has been a strong leader for the department and an invaluable member of my cabinet,” the governor said. “I am deeply grateful for his wise counsel and leadership, and wish him all the best as he resumes his work at UMSL.”

Isom will return to his UMSL post as the E. Desmond Lee Professor of Policing and the Community for the nationally recognized Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

The governor's statement includes a quote from Isom, in which he said, "It has been a great honor to serve as the Director of Public Safety during this important time, but after a long career in law enforcement I have found that my true passion is teaching and I’m eager to return to my students at UMSL..."

Nixon said he will name Peter Lyskowski as acting director of the department "until a permanent director is appointed. In addition, former Dunklin County Prosecuting Attorney Stephen Sokoloff, of Kennett, will be joining the department as a deputy director."

Lyskowski has been Nixon's deputy chief of staff.

Isom's appointment had been crucial for Nixon, in part, because the governor had been under fire last summer and fall for having few minorities in top jobs within his administration.

Nasheed was critical of how Nixon's office had dealt with Isom.  “I sponsored Dr. Isom’s nomination because I believe that he has the ability and experience to reform the justice system in the state of Missouri. The governor needs to start taking responsibility for these needed reforms. This state needs leadership, and the governor is not showing that right now.”

Jefferson City correspondent Marshall Griffin contributed to this report.

Copyright 2015 St. Louis Public Radio

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.
Rachel Lippmann
Lippmann returned to her native St. Louis after spending two years covering state government in Lansing, Michigan. She earned her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and followed (though not directly) in Maria Altman's footsteps in Springfield, also earning her graduate degree in public affairs reporting. She's also done reporting stints in Detroit, Michigan and Austin, Texas. Rachel likes to fill her free time with good books, good friends, good food, and good baseball.
Since entering the world of professional journalism in 2006, Jason Rosenbaum dove head first into the world of politics, policy and even rock and roll music. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, Rosenbaum spent more than four years in the Missouri State Capitol writing for the Columbia Daily Tribune, Missouri Lawyers Media and the St. Louis Beacon. Since moving to St. Louis in 2010, Rosenbaum's work appeared in Missouri Lawyers Media, the St. Louis Business Journal and the Riverfront Times' music section. He also served on staff at the St. Louis Beacon as a politics reporter. Rosenbaum lives in Richmond Heights with with his wife Lauren and their two sons.