Leavenworth County commissioner says he is part of the ‘master race’
Two Leavenworth County commissioners have called for the resignation of Louis Klemp, a fellow commissioner who made a reference to the “master race” in a public meeting this week.
“In the best interest of the county, he should resign,” 3rd District Commissioner Doug Smith said in a statement.
Government officials and Kansas community organizations have also denounced the comments Klemp, the 2nd District commissioner, made to a black city planner as she presented to the board Tuesday. Robert Holland, the 1st District representative, called for Klemp’s resignation the next day.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas called Klemp’s words “abhorrent” in a Facebook post.
“Mr. Klemp has a First Amendment right to express himself — just as his community has a right to hold him accountable to his toxic words and the ideas behind it,” the ACLU wrote. “At a time when hate-based violence is on the rise across the country, we must make it clear that we stand together as diverse communities and that we do not tolerate hate-based speech, especially not in local government.”
Klemp’s “master race” reference was as odd as it was offensive for many who watched video of Klemp addressing consultant Triveece Penelton as she shared a land use analysis with government officials Tuesday.
Klemp had voiced displeasure at the development options for the County Road 1 corridor presented by Penelton, of the Kansas City company Vireo.
He then made a comment that seemed to suggest that because both he and Penelton have gaps in their teeth, they are part of a “master race.” The term “master race” is considered to be part of Nazi ideology that Nordic or Aryan races are superior to others.
“I don’t want you to think I’m picking on you, because, we’re part of the master race,” Klemp said, as he brought his fingers to his own teeth. “You know you got a gap in your teeth, you’re the masters, don’t ever forget that.”
A statement released by City Manager Paul Kramer said the city “denounces” Klemp’s reference, and also condemned Klemp’s decision to draw attention to Penelton’s appearance.
“The City Commission condemns the lack of decorum, professionalism and common decency shown to the woman presenting to the County Commission,” the city’s statement read. “Such behaviors and treatment has no place in the Leavenworth community, is never justified and should never be allowed.”
Klemp has served on the county commission since he was appointed in 2017 by the Republican Party to fill a 2nd District vacancy after Clyde Graeber left due to health reasons. Klemp had served on the commission years ago. His current term ends Jan. 15.
Klemp did not respond to an email requesting comment. A number listed for him appeared to be disconnected. But he reportedly told a TV station earlier this week that the comment was a “joke.”
It’s not the first time he has been accused of making racist comments at a public board meeting.
During a board conversation in December 2017 about setting the county’s federal holiday schedule, Klemp made references to the Confederate States of America that drew ire.
He called Robert E. Lee, the commander of the Confederate States Army, a “wonderful part of history,” and said President George Washington was not properly honored “because he had slaves.”
He also said that President Abraham Lincoln’s legacy would not be fully realized because the Confederates had lost.
“We’ll never how great his importance was because the other side didn’t win, which is all good,” Klemp said. “I guess.”
Leavenworth County Administrator Mark Loughry said he would be releasing a statement later Friday about the matter.