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Karsten named new public safety director

Office of Gov. Mike Parson
Col. Sandra Karsten will take over on Sept. 1 as director of the Mo. Dept. of Public Safety.

Gov. Mike Parson has removed the interim tag from Sandra Karsten’s job title as director of the Department of Public Safety.

Last week, the superintendent of the Missouri State Highway Patrol was named interim director of the safety department when the governor announced he was parting ways with Drew Juden, who was appointed last year by former Gov. Eric Greitens.

Shortly after being named interim director, Col. Karsten announced she would retire from the state patrol on Sept. 1. Parson told reporters Monday that Karsten will be “an incredible addition” to his cabinet when it comes to dealing with Missouri’s crime rate.

“I have all the confidence in the world that she’s going to be able to run that agency and take it to another level,” he said. “We look for that every day – how do we get better at all Cabinet positions – this is one that I’m very confident the colonel will be able to handle.”

Although Karsten will take over as public safety director on Saturday, she will still have to undergo Senate confirmation next year.

She takes over an agency that oversees the Highway Patrol along with the Missouri National Guard, the State Emergency Management Agency, the Divison of Fire Safety, the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control, the Missouri Capitol Police, the Missouri Gaming Commission, and the Missouri Veterans Commission.

“Our commitment must be to work together as a team, to work smarter, to include more voices in our discussions, and to listen, to be willing to question if there’s a better way to serve than what we’ve done in the past,” she said. “When we do those things, I’m convinced we can make Missouri safer and more secure.”

Parson added that Karsten will take a leading role in helping combat gun violence in St. Louis and Kansas City.

“Probably one of the first things I’ll ask her to do is to be building those relationships to see what those issues are, and see if there’s ways that we can help,” he said. “I’ve been pretty open all along that I’m a very strong supporter of the Second Amendment, but I also realize at times if there’s ways we can do things better, then I’ll look at that.”

Karsten joined the Highway Patrol in Sept. 1985 and began work as a road trooper in Callaway and Audrain counties. In 1996, she was assigned to the Field Operations Bureau at the patrol’s headquarters in Jefferson City and later served as human resources director and commander of the administration-services bureau.

She joined the command staff in 2012 and last year took over command of the entire patrol when she was named superintendent by Greitens and later confirmed by the Missouri Senate. She was the first female commander of the patrol and will also become the first woman to head the Department of Public Safety.

Follow Marshall on Twitter: @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.

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