MARIONVILLE, MO (KCTV) — The mayor of a small southwest Missouri town taking heat over the recent murders at Jewish community sites in Overland Park is stepping down under pressure.
Residents in the town of 2,225 crowded into fire station for a special Board of Aldermen meeting to discuss how to address comments made by mayor Dan Clevenger in the wake of the murders.
Approximately 150 people attended Monday night’s special meeting. Most asked the mayor to step down. Some demanded that the Board of Aldermen begin proceedings to force his ouster.
“I’m disgusted by your comments,” resident Bob Duda said. “The light that you shined on this town is horrible.”
Clevenger was elected just two weeks ago.
Since then, his town got an unwelcome distinction when a resident, Frazier Glenn Cross, 73, was charged with killing three people in Overland Park.
Cross, who also went by Glenn Miller, was a self-avowed white supremacist who apparently was seeking to kill Jews but instead killed three Christians at two Jewish-related sites.
In response to the tragedy, news media outlets sought the mayor’s opinion.
The mayor condemned Cross’ actions. But when a Springfield newspaper brought up an old letter-to-the-editor and began questioning the mayor about it, he was quoted as saying he did agree with some of Cross’s beliefs about Jews, particularly that they have contributed to the downfall of the U.S. economy.
The article in the Springfield News-Leader quotes Clevenger as saying the following:
“This country is dead. I hate to say that. We have a fake economy, high unemployment. Fuel prices are high. We don’t have no industry. All the factories have left… The futures market, the federal reserve, the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health – every time I see that on the news, there are Jewish names and they run things.”
Residents calling for Clevenger’s resignation or impeachment Monday night said his remarks have put a pall over the whole town before a nationwide audience.
“If you don’t step down,” resident Dan Noyes said. “I ask that you keep your mouth shut unless you know everyone agrees with you.”
Noyes made a point that was repeated by many. When Clevenger shared his beliefs with the news media, he was doing so not as an individual but as a representative of his electorate.
“I was heartbroken to find out that this is the reputation you have built for the community I am raising my children in,” one resident said at the microphone. “I ask that you step down, that you allow us to be represented by somebody who represents our values.”
A handful of people claimed the outcry was motivated not by moral outrage but by sour grapes from supporters of the man Clevenger beat in the April election.
Still more questioned the loving, caring, unprejudiced image of the town that those demanding impeachment said Clevenger had single-handedly destroyed.
“When you try to portray yourself as a community that’s not racist, it’s a lie,” said one man, who would not give his name.
Yet even some of the people casting a skeptical eye on the Kumbaya-toned impeachment speeches asked the mayor to consider stepping down to bring peace to the town.
“I think a lot of people were blindsided by your remarks because they did see you as a loving, kind individual,” resident Vincent Jennings said.
Jennings and other praised Clevenger for being without bias in the realm of small-town politics, but Jennings said racism comes in many forms and on many levels.
“We need to reach out with a new beginning and a new mayor,” Jennings said.
The mayor made his announcement suddenly, just as a board had voted 4-to-1 to begin the process of impeachment. Asked about the reasoning behind his decision, he was mum, yet he couldn’t help but make it clear who was to blame.
“You all have done enough damage,” Clevenger said to members of the news media present. “You ought to be ashamed of yourselves.”
Prompted further about the shame of quoting him, he shook his head and asked, “Why didn’t they just leave it alone? Ten years ago, I wrote that. My views have changed. I hate what Miller did.” Miller is the name in which Cross used when he ran for public office.
Clevenger said he would submit his letter of resignation at 8 a.m. Tuesday.
By Betsy Webster