The announcement by Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens that he will resign on Friday took most local lawmakers by surprise.
But most also said the decision was best for the state, Greitens and his family. And they said they did not believe the departure will signal any significant shift in legislative priorities carried out in the past session by the Republican-dominated House and Senate.
The House probe that also focused on campaign finance issues and allegations involving the governor’s extramarital affair is expected to wrap up in the wake of the resignation.
Most lawmakers said the resignation would allow lawmakers, and residents, to move on and focus on other challenges facing the state.
State Sen. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, who is president pro tem in the Senate, said he and House Speaker Todd Richardson will share their staffs with the soon-to-be Gov. Mike Parson in the transition and that he has agreed to help with day-to-day operations in the lieutenant governor’s office. Richard said he also will accompany Parson on a “fly around” next month in which the new governor will be able to meet with residents around the state.
Richard had earlier called for Greitens to resign, and in the wake of the Wednesday announcement said he believed the governor had made the right decision.
“In the midst of everything, the Legislature has gotten a lot accomplished,” he added.
State Rep. Bill Lant, R-Pineville, said he began to look for a resignation announcement after Republican members were called for a House caucus held Wednesday.
“I think leadership was expecting something,” he said. “I didn’t support him for governor. He (Greitens) was very personable, but he wasn’t the right man for the job.”
Lant said he thought the resignation “was inevitable, and the best thing for the state.”
State Rep. Bill White, R-Joplin, who was a Greitens supporter, said the governor faced “a difficult road,” but he still was “a little disappointed” with the resignation.
He argued that the Legislature’s move toward impeachment was premature and should have occurred if Greitens faced a criminal conviction, “so they could act on all the evidence.”
White praised legislative accomplishments during Greitens’ tenure, along with work by the executive branch.
“We’ve had the best two years ever," he said. "He cut a lot of regulations and brought in some really stellar people as department heads. I hope they’ll be able to stay on.”
Rep. Cody Smith, R-Carthage, said he was surprised by the resignation since Greitens “had maintained his innocence throughout, even in his resignation statement.”
He said the action marked “a sad day after several very difficult weeks."
“It’s best, so we can move on and continue the agenda that Missourians have set," he said. "We’ve had a successful year, and I think we’ll have two more under Parson.”
State Rep. Bill Reiboldt, R-Neosho, said he was surprised by the announcement, “but ready for it to be over."
“It’s been disheartening, because this is not what we’re about in Missouri," he said. "I wish him and his family the best, but I do think it’s in the best interest of the state that he resigned.”
In resigning, Greitens “made the right choice,” said state Rep. Charlie Davis, R-Webb City.
“I was surprised; Navy SEALs don’t give up, but you also have to see it through the eyes of his family,” he said. “The offices we’re elected to aren’t bigger than the state, or our families.”
Davis said he would have preferred it if Greitens had enjoyed a successful tenure as governor, adding “if you look at what’s been accomplished, things are better today.”
Susan Redden is a former reporter for The Joplin Globe.