(AP) – Missouri’s Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon on Friday appointed one of his senior advisers to temporarily serve as state auditor following the death of Republican Auditor Tom Schweich, who police say died of an apparent suicide.
John Watson will serve as auditor until a permanent replacement is found, at which point he will resign, according to a release from Nixon’s office.
“I have tremendous respect for the state auditor’s office, and I will carry out these duties in service to the people of Missouri,” Watson said in the statement. “I continue to keep Tom Schweich’s family and friends in my thoughts and prayers, and join them in mourning this loss.”
Missouri law requires the governor to immediately appoint a replacement if there’s a vacancy in the office, which Nixon in a statement said provides “a critical public service.”
Nixon’s final appointee will serve the remainder of Schweich’s term until a new auditor is elected. Schweich was sworn in for a second, four-year term in late January.
For years, Watson was only person to have served as chief of staff for Nixon throughout his time in state government.
Watson had been Nixon’s chief of staff since he became governor in 2009 and held the same role since 1997 when Nixon was attorney general. He stepped down to act as one of the governor’s senior advisers in December.
The governor said Watson will act with the “professionalism, integrity and independence the citizens of Missouri expect and deserve” during his time as auditor.
The office, which under Schweich cranked out about 570 audits, continued working Friday and released an annual report bearing Schweich’s name about property seizures by law enforcement agencies.
Auditor’s spokesman Spence Jackson said the office also plans to go ahead with a scheduled release of an audit about the Joplin School District next week.