DeWine Says He Was Open About Acton Harassment With New Health Director Hire

Sep 16, 2020

Gov. Mike DeWine says his administration was open with his new pick for director of the Ohio Department of Health about the demonstrations that occurred at her would-be predecessor's house earlier in the pandemic.

Dr. Joan Duwve, a public health director from South Carolina, accepted the job last week before reconsidering. She told a South Carolina news outlet she bowed because of harassment faced by former Ohio Department of Health director Dr. Amy Acton.

“In conversations preparing for the transition to the Ohio Department of Health, I was informed that the former director’s family had faced harassment from the public,” Duwve said in a written statement to The State. “While I have dedicated my life to improving public health, my first commitment is to my family. I am a public figure. My family is off limits. I withdrew my name from consideration to protect my family from similar treatment.

Duwve took the job in South Carolina in April, after serving for years in Indiana’s public health agency. She has Ohio roots – a graduate of North Olmsted High School and The Ohio State University.

In his Tuesday coronavirus press briefing, DeWine addressed Duwve's change of heart, saying he "respects" her decision to reconsider the job.

"I take people at face value," he said. "Sometimes, you don't fully grasp things until you kind of get into something... but I'm only speculating. We were open with her."

DeWine says he's not concerned about potential harassment discouraging future candidates.

"If the question is, 'Can we find a person to serve who's a very good person to serve as health director,' the answer certainly is yes," DeWine said.

Acton stepped down as the director of the Ohio Department of Health in June, but stayed on as DeWine's chief health advisor for two more months. She gained praise for her clear and disarming communication early in the COVID-19 pandemic, but she also became a target for activists unhappy with the state's stay-at-home order.

Armed protestors even visited her Bexley home, and Republican lawmakers made several attempts at curbing her powers to issue public health orders.