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City abandons consideration of mask exemption

John Richmeier
The Leavenworth Times

A week after discussing the idea, Leavenworth city commissioners have decided not to pursue an exemption to the city’s mask order for clergy.

Last week, commissioners voted to extend an ordinance that requires people to wear masks or other face coverings in public spaces in the city.

At the time of the vote, Commissioner Jermaine Wilson, who was opposed to the mask order, said it bothered him that the ordinance includes exemptions for recreational activities but ministers are required to wear masks while preaching in churches.

Commissioner Mike Griswold said last week that he would be willing to consider an exemption for ministers who are significant distances from their audiences.

Mayor Nancy Bauder also expressed support last week for pursuing the idea.

But Bauder said during a meeting Tuesday that she was withdrawing her support for a consensus for such an exemption.

Bauder said she had talked with several clergy members including her own priest.

“They don’t feel like it’s being a hardship and they want to make a good impression on their community and be a good example,” she said.

City Manager Paul Kramer said without the mayor’s support, there was not a sufficient consensus to move forward with the issue. He said the issue will not be brought back to the five-member City Commission unless one of the other commissioners changes his or her mind.

“We do not have a consensus at this point to bring it back as an agenda item,” Kramer said.

Griswold said he would like to have more discussion on the issue.

Commissioner Mark Preisinger expressed opposition to the idea.

“That’s where I’ve stood from the beginning,” he said. “I’m not changing.”

Preisinger said teachers have to wear masks eight hours per day.

Mayor Pro-Tem Camalla Leonhard said health care workers also have to wear masks for many hours a day.

Preisinger said the commission does not need to create a special class that is exempt from the order.

Preisinger said he also has heard from clergy on the issue.

Wilson asked ministers to reach out to commissioners to let them know how they feel about the issue.

Twitter: @LVTNewsJohnR