CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - Longtime Sikeston police officer and chief Drew Juden officially ended his tenure as Missouri’s Director of Public Safety on August 31.
So now, he can talk freely about the job he took under Governor Eric Greitens and lost under Governor Mike Parson.
Make no mistake, Juden said he got fired, and he thinks he knows why.
"It's very disappointing to see that things are going back to politics as usual,” Juden said.
That’s Drew Juden’s response to the end of his tenure as Missouri’s Director of the Department of Public Safety.
What began with an appointment by Governor Greitens ended in a five-minute meeting he said with Governor Parson’s Chief of Staff.
"He came around his desk and sat down across from me and said, quote - unquote, ‘we’re going to take Public Safety in a new direction,'” he said.
Were you, in effect, fired?
“I was fired,” he answered. There’s no other way to look at it. And he made a comment about wanting to put in their news release that I was going to be seeking opportunities elsewhere. And I said no because that’s not true. I’m not seeking opportunities elsewhere.”
When Parson took over as Governor, he said publicly he would keep the cabinet Greitens put in place. Juden said Parson told all department leaders he would be meeting with them individually in the coming weeks.
Did that ever happen?
"Never happened,” Juden said.
Did you wonder why?
"I did,” Juden said. “But after a while I realized that a lot of the public safety things that I should have attended with the Governor that I would have attended with the previous Governor I wasn't invited to. I wasn't acknowledged."
Juden does want to acknowledge what he accomplished in 18 months. He points to the proactive approach they took to natural disasters, the backlog of officer conduct reports he closed, and the handling of protests in St. Louis following the Jason Stockley verdict. He also made it a point to try and meet as many of the 15,000 employs he led as possible.
“One employee said, I’ve worked for the state for 28 years and I’ve never seen a Director of Public Safety.”
And Juden questions why Governor Parson never took the time to ask about the ongoing projects and plans he’d be leaving behind.
“The message it sent to me is that it doesn’t really matter,” Juden said. “It’s about politics. It’s about somebody I owe a favor to or a job to. And so you need to move on and make room so I can put them in there.”
Do you think that's what happened with your departure and Colonel Karsten's appointment to that job?
"I think that's exactly what happened,” Juden said.
"And Sandy Karsten's a very talented individual who did a very good job with the Highway Patrol. But, she doesn't know anything about fire. She doesn't know anything about emergency management."
Juden would have marked 40 years with Sikeston DPS this month, his original retirement date.
But despite how his career ends, he said he’s humbled by the opportunity he got to serve the entire state. “I thought it was a good opportunity to take southeast Missouri values to Jefferson City. Try to share them throughout the state. And make things better.”
Did you get the opportunity to do that?
"I did get the opportunity to do that,” Juden said. “And I did get the opportunity to prove some of that works. I just hope it doesn't get undone."
I also asked Juden about former Governor Eric Greitens, and the scandals that led to his sudden resignation on June 1.
"The thing that I always saw was the fact that they were going to continue to hound him until they ran him off,” said Juden.
Juden was not surprised when Eric Greitens resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct and misuse of a charity donor list.
Juden said Greitens wasn’t a traditional politician, which is why he chose to join the administration. But, he feels it also put a target on Greitens' back.
“I think he bears the responsibility of not being politically prepared for that,” Juden said. “I mean obviously, if he got into the political arena and he had those skeletons in his closet he had to know that eventually they were going to come out.”
In your opinion, was Eric Greitens a good Governor for Missouri?
"Yes. And it's not just because I served for him,” Juden said. “I think he really had it right and his heart was really focused on the citizens. Where a lot of times in Jefferson City, it's about what each individual person can get for themselves."
Juden calls watching the months leading up to Greitens' resignation difficult.
“You know, it’s always amazing to me that you can look at something that happened in someone’s personal life years ago and judge, judge them on that,” Juden said. “I mean, if we’re looking for the perfect person to serve in those positions, that’s never going to happen.”
Juden said he did not have all the information involved in Greitens' two criminal cases but expressed surprise the charges got filed in the first place.
“I don’t think there was ever enough there to get an indictment or should have been to get an indictment,” Juden said. “And that’s whether I was like I said I couldn’t have gotten that indictment on John Q. Citizen. So, why should we indict our Governor?”
And you never had any sit-down conversations with him?
"No,” said Juden.
"No,” Juden said.
That given your background at all?
"No. Never did,” Juden added.
Juden said he and Greitens remain friends. And the former Governor was not surprised to learn Juden had been fired.
Following a law enforcement career that spanned four decades, Juden said he’s disappointed, but not bitter about how it ended.
Do you think what happened to Eric Greitens tarnishes at all what you were able to accomplish in his administration?
“I hope not because, again, I wasn’t a part nor party to that,” Juden said. You know, it was very disappointing to me to see that occur. I think Missouri, unfortunately, missed a huge opportunity. I think in four years there could have been a lot of good accomplished.”
Drew Juden said he’s now ready to relax and spend time with his family.