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The acting director of the Department of Natural Resources has been named the department's permanent director, the governor announced Wednesday.

Dru Buntin assumed the role of DNR director immediately.

"I'm humbled and honored to accept Gov. Parson's appointment to serve as director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources," Buntin said. "I am looking forward to bringing to this role my experience in working with the department's complex issues and building relationships with stakeholders across the department's areas of responsibility."

Carol Comer, the department's previous director, died June 9 after an ongoing battle with cancer. Comer had been serving in the role since 2017.

"Director Comer was a talented spirit and accomplished leader who left some big shoes to fill," Gov. Mike Parson said. "We knew it was important to find someone who is passionate about Missouri and the department's mission, just as Carol was."

Buntin was named acting director in June after Comer's death.

He said he would do everything in his power to honor Comer's legacy and lead the department to best serve the state and its residents.

Previously, Buntin served as the deputy director for the department for more than four years. He originally joined the state agency in 2000 as director of government affairs, then moved to deputy director for policy and chief of water resources.

Buntin led DNR's Red Tape Reduction initiative and the department's drought response and flood recovery support efforts.

"Dru is an experienced and trusted leader within DNR and across state government," Parson said. "He worked closely with Director Comer and stepped up to be a steady hand of leadership upon her passing. We know Dru will honor Carol's legacy, but also that he has the determination and vision to move DNR forward."

Buntin said the department will largely focus on its ongoing initiatives, like revenue bonds that will support improvement projects at state park campsites and cabins.

The new director also said he will be focusing the department's efforts on using assistance to achieve environmental compliance, supporting collaborative infrastructure efforts, bringing in more funding through state and federal partners, and prioritizing open communication with community partners.

"We have a great team working at DNR, and I'm excited about what we can accomplish working together with partners across Missouri," Buntin said.

Buntin said the department's infrastructure efforts include flood protections, water resources, drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, and improvements to the state parks and historic sites.

He said the department will also be working with community partners to learn more about the challenges they face with flood risks and how the department uses its resources to mitigate those dangers.

With concentrated animal feeding operations being a major element of DNR's responsibilities, Buntin said the department will continue enforcing the laws and regulations designed at banning waste discharges from CAFO facilities.

He said the department has a strong history of being objective in upholding requirements for protecting the state's water resources and he expects that effort to continue.

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