The Leavenworth County Commissioner who made “master race” comments at a meeting last week has resigned under the pressure of his fellow commissioners, city officials, news outlets, and the governor of Kansas.
Commissioner Louis Klemp’s remarks at the Nov. 15 meeting were directed to an African American woman at a public commission meeting. Commissioner Louis Klemp told the woman, “I don’t want you to think I’m picking on you because we’re part of the master race.”
At the Leavenworth County Commission meeting Nov. 20, the county clerk read a resignation letter from Klemp, who didn’t attend. The meeting was moved from the usual location of the County Administrative Building to the Justice Center, presumably for security reasons.
“It is with great sorrow that I am submitting this letter to the community that I love and have been a part of for more than 80 years,” Klemp wrote in the letter. “In order to maintain a focus and prioritize the needs of the county I have made a decision to resign.”
The remaining two commissioners voted during the meeting to accept the resignation.
The same morning, the county website already listed Klemp’s commission seat as vacant.
Klemp is a White man who was not elected but rather appointed to his seat by the local Republican committee. He had previously served as an elected commissioner several years ago.
Such was the immediate uproar after the morning county commission meeting that the city commission convened a special meeting that night to address the issue. It doesn’t have any authority over the county commission, but issued a statement condemning the remarks and calling for Klemp’s resignation and apology.
The Leavenworth County Commission only has three members, and the other two had publicly called for Klemp’s resignation. He was reportedly supposed to leave the post anyway on Jan. 15.
Some called his comments “insensitive” and “racist”.
“You know you got a gap in your teeth. We’re part of the master race,” Klemp reportedly said (several outlets are reporting variations of his statement). “Don’t ever forget that.” He also has a gap in his teeth and reportedly has mentioned it in previous meetings.
In his resignation letter, he said, “My attempts at identifying a similarity (space between our teeth) with a presenter were well-meaning but misinterpreted by some and definitely not racially motivated.”
Klemp stated that he has reached out to the woman who made the presentation “and extended my regret and support.”
The woman, Triveece Penelton, was at the Nov. 15 meeting to present on behalf of an landscape and architectural firm, Vireo, which was hired to do a land use study for a County Road 1 corridor, according to the Leavenworth Times. She asked to not comment to media.
Commissioner Bob Holland said the bizarre observations had nothing to do with the agenda.
“What’s this master race,” Bob Holland said. “None of us are master race. We’re all American and we’re all human beings.”
Holland condemned Klemp last year after he made bigoted comments as the commission voted to approve county holidays.
“Not everybody does them all because you know we have Robert E Lee,” Klemp said in November 2017. “Oh, God Robert E Lee wonderful part of history.”
“I’m going to be honest with you,” Klemp also said, “my great-great grandfather had a slave.”
He also said, some black people didn’t like former President Abe Lincoln because he didn’t go through with the emancipation.
“I think Martin Luther did some good things,” Klemp said.
“If we’re going to have Martin Luther King Day, why don’t we have a George Washington? I think George was a pretty important guy,” he said, before going on to ask if Oprah Winfrey would be given a holiday.
Holland said at the time Klemp had “embarrassed” the county with this remarks.
“Mr. Klemp certainly embarrassed Leavenworth County to the extreme,” Holland stated. “I just believe that he embarrassed himself, his family and our Leavenworth County taxpayers.”
“I think he is a racist myself. I do,” Holland said. “I think he owes an apology to that woman. I think he owes an apology to the whole commission and the county.”
Kansas’ Gov. Jeff Colyer even weighed in on the situation.
“Racial and discriminative language have no place in our society, and most especially when spoken by someone holding a public office,” Gov. Jeff Colyer said in a statement Nov. 17. “The inappropriate remarks made by Leavenworth County Commissioner Louis Klemp are unacceptable and do not reflect the values of the county which he represents. As such, I call on him to step down as county commissioner.”
– News Services