A white member of the Leavenworth County Board of Commissioners in Kansas has resigned after telling a black consultant he was part of the “master race” during a public meeting.
Louis Klemp, 80, issued a public apology through a resignation letter read during a board meeting on Tuesday, writing “I regret my recent comment” and adding his intentions were “well-meaning”.
His controversial remarks arrived during a public meeting held earlier this month about a potential new development being built in the region, featuring Triveece Penelton, a black female consultant for VIREO Planning Associates in Kansas City.
According to a video of the meeting, Mr Klemp spoke directly to Ms Penelton and said: “I don’t want you to think I’m picking on you because we’re part of the master race. You know you got a gap in your teeth. You’re the masters. Don’t ever forget that.”
The comments brought a swift rebuke from the state’s governor, Jeff Coyler, who said in a statement: “Racial and discriminative language have no place in our society, and most especially when spoken by someone holding a public office.”
“The inappropriate remarks made by Leavenworth County Commissioner Louis Klemp are unacceptable and do not reflect the values of the county which he represents,“ he added.
A special meeting was then held by the Leavenworth City Commission last week, calling on Mr Klemp to resign.
On Tuesday, he obliged.
“My attempts at identifying a similarity, space between our teeth, with the presenter were well-meaning,” Mr Klemp wrote in his letter. He said the phrase was “definitely not racially motivated” while extending “my regret and support.”
The term “master race” was popularised by Adolf Hitler and Germany’s Nazi Party that rose to prominence in the 1920s, and has been used to describe the belief – which is wrong – that white people are superior to other ethnicities.
Mr Klemp’s fellow commissioners said he did “the right thing” in leaving the board.
“This is a good example that the choice of words does matter,” Commissioner Doug Smith said during the meeting. “I hope the young lady involved will accept our apology and will not hesitate to help Leavenworth County on future projects.”
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