White Kansas Official Resigns After Uproar Over ‘Master Race’ Remarks
Posted November 20, 2018 3:55 p.m. EST
A white county commissioner in Kansas resigned Tuesday after an outcry over his use of the term “master race” in a discussion with a black consultant at a public meeting last week.
The commissioner, Louis Klemp of Leavenworth County, made the comments to Triveece Penelton, who works for an architecture and design company, during a land-use meeting on Nov. 13.
According to a video recording, Klemp said to Penelton: “I don’t want you to think I’m picking on you because we’re part of the master race. You know you’ve got a gap in your teeth. You’re the master race. Don’t ever forget that.”
In a statement on Tuesday, Klemp wrote that he regretted the comment.
“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,” he wrote.
The Leavenworth mayor pro tem, Jermaine Wilson, said he did not believe Klemp’s assertion that his comments were not racially motivated.
He pointed to another episode last November, when Klemp made a series of incendiary comments during a meeting about public holidays. He called Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general, “a wonderful part of history” and questioned the holiday for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
“I’m glad that he stepped down,” Wilson said. “The city needs to be represented by an individual who doesn’t seek division.”
Gov. Jeff Colyer, the Leavenworth City Commission and the city’s mayor, Mark Preisinger, were also among those who had called for Klemp’s resignation.
“It was just pure boorish behavior,” Preisinger said. “By him resigning, we are now able to move on.”
In her own statement after Klemp’s resignation, Penelton called the original comments “unbelievably inappropriate.” She noted that the land-use analysis she had been presenting was the outcome of a nine-month community planning process. And in response, she said, Kemp homed in on her race and appearance.
“As a successful African-American planner with 16 years of professional experience, I have been subjected to a wide range of tactless and at times covertly racist comments,” she wrote.
“However, no one’s words have been more unthinking than Mr. Klemp’s.”
She added that she hoped the episode, which garnered widespread attention in the news media, would be a teaching moment.
Klemp had been appointed by the county Republican Party last year after another commissioner resigned because of illness. Klemp previously served two four-year terms on the commission, one starting in 1978 and the other in 1992, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.
Rett Rogers, the party’s county chairman, said a new commissioner who was elected in November, Vicky Kaaz, was set to take Klemp’s seat on Jan. 15.
But Rogers said he was obligated by state law to fill the seat as soon as he was notified of the vacancy. He was researching how to proceed on Tuesday, and said the state could leave the seat vacant until then, or install Kaaz early.