County Meeting Canceled After Winlock Mayor Refuses to Wear Mask

Mayors Meeting: Winlock Mayor Brandon Svenson Says He’s Standing Up for Rights, Declining Requests From Officials to Follow Protocols 

Posted

Citing Winlock Mayor Brandon Svenson’s refusal to wear a mask, Lewis County officials canceled an in-person meeting Friday morning. County staff, local mayors and other elected officials filed out of the commissioners’ chambers in the Lewis County Courthouse as Svenson began reciting the state constitution.

Svenson has consistently refused to mask up in the past, although in the past county officials have continued with their meetings, in violation of Washington’s COVID-19 restrictions. 

In an email, Commissioner Lindsey Pollock said she was empathetic to the mental, physical and financial strain of the pandemic. 

“We understand the desire to be rid of masks; we don’t like them either,” she wrote. “That said, we have a basic human decency to provide as safe a workspace as we can for the folks that support our office. This sense of caring for our fellow person is outside of anything the Governor or his Labor and Industry Department decrees.” 

Pollock also noted that not all county staff have been fully vaccinated yet. 

In canceling the meeting, County Commissioner Gary Stamper cited concerns over the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I). Stamper was not available to comment after the meeting and Commissioner Sean Swope declined to comment on whether the county had received a complaint. 

“I just think that Gary Stamper had no option with everything that’s going on, so he made the right call,” Centralia Mayor Sue Luond told The Chronicle, noting that she had planned to discuss the city’s streetscape project during the meeting. “I walked in one minute and sat down, and the meeting was canceled.”

According to Svenson, “several people” asked him to wear a mask before Friday’s meeting, which is held monthly to allow mayors to discuss city and county matters. Svenson proceeded to repeat false claims that masks “do no good.” When asked about other officials inconvenienced by the cancelation, Svenson shrugged. Officials and members of the public have the option to use Zoom to attend public meetings.

“It’s going to take someone to stand up for our rights,” Svenson said.

Health officials have consistently said masks are proven to limit the spread of COVID-19, which has so far killed over 5,500 people in Washington state. Nationwide, the death toll is approaching 600,000.

Svenson — who said Friday that he’s “not anti-mask, per-se” — has flouted COVID-19 guidance throughout the pandemic. In addition to consistently refusing to wear masks at government meetings, Svenson has presided over large, unmasked gatherings of the Lewis County Republican Party. In March, one such meeting drew more than 50 unmasked people packed into the town’s community building.

Svenson has also thrown his support behind local restaurants who proudly defied pandemic restrictions, speaking at a January rally in front of Farm Boy Drive-in, a Maytown establishment found in contempt and slapped with more than $370,000 in fines for willfully defying public health rules.

Outside of the Twin Cities, Winlock has seen the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Lewis County, according to public health reports. Most recent data shows Winlock representing 7.2% of Lewis County’s COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic. The town represents less than 3% of the county’s population.



Comments

7 comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment
LL Hauer

Many thanks to Commissioner Pollock for taking a sane, reasonable perspective on the issue of masks. As Mayor Svenson and so many others choose to do, you can certainly pick a fight and get all riled up about the perceived limitation on our liberty. But it sure is a relief to hear one of our local leaders come down on the side of rationality and kindness, reminding us that the issue of mask wearing comes down to “basic human decency” and “caring for our fellow person.” It can really be that simple a choice if you’re not looking for a reason to get mad about every little thing. I applaud Commissioner Pollock for encouraging decency and caring in our community and toward one another.

Friday, May 7
LL Hauer

Many thanks to Commissioner Pollock for taking a sane, reasonable perspective on the issue of masks. As Mayor Svenson and so many others choose to do, you can certainly pick a fight and get all riled up about the perceived limitation on our liberty. But it sure is a relief to hear one of our local leaders come down on the side of rationality and kindness, reminding us that the issue of mask wearing comes down to “basic human decency” and “caring for our fellow person.” It can really be that simple a choice if you’re not looking for a reason to get mad about every little thing. I applaud Commissioner Pollock for encouraging decency and caring in our community and toward one another.

Friday, May 7
DaveC

Svenson proceeded to repeat false claims that masks “do no good.”

In who's opinion are these "false claims"?

Here's a novel idea. Report the news and not make it an opinion piece.

Saturday, May 8
LL Hauer

This situation goes right to the heart of the debate about the balance between individual liberties vs. the wellbeing of the many. One person, Mayor Svenson, refused to follow the guidelines in place, so every individual there at the meeting was sent home and no county business was conducted. How much important work on behalf of a county full of people went undone because of the actions of one person? What about the rights of the rest of us to have the county continue to carry on necessary business?

I think Commissioner Stamper made a poor call. Instead of sending everyone else away and shutting down the meeting, why wasn’t Mayor Svenson asked to leave the room and attend the meeting by Zoom? It sounds like it wasn’t just Mayor Svenson who shrugged his shoulders at the idea no productive county work would get done – it was the commissioners and everyone else at that meeting. Are we really okay with the rights of one individual preventing an entire county government from functioning? Because that’s exactly what happened here.

Sunday, May 9
Bradd Reynolds

The mask vs no mask debate will last as long as we deal with covid and its deadly effects in our community and around the world.

I'm troubled by elected officials who refuse to follow the COVID-19 laws. Yes they are laws. Not suggestions or "at your option guidelines.

The voters gave Governor Inslee his legal authority to mandate mask, social distance, and business restrictions by vote on our state ballot in Nov 2019.

These emergency powers are law.

Secondly the Secretary of the State Health department has the legal authority to order the same and more, under the powers given him by state law. Passed decades ago by the legislators and signed by the then Govenor.... his powers also include the right to order our citizens to be locked down and sealed into our own homes.

These powers were given when thoughts of nuclear war was in the back of societies mind decades ago.

We don't have to like these laws. We can even question if they are constitional. But it will take a high court to decide that the laws are invalid.

So why do elected officials, like the Windlock mayor, think they are above these laws and don't have to follow them?

What kind of example does it set for citizens, when those in office say...I don't like the law, so I'll refuse to follow it?

Science can't agree if the mask work or not. But we as a community can decide to wear the mask and do our part to try and end this virus from spreading further through our community.

We can also decide that we respect our laws even if we don't like or agree with them.

If you wish to research the laws im taking about here they are.

I'm not an attorney. This comment is only my opinion based on my understanding, research and knowledge. In only a person with a family, a community member and business owner that wants us all to what we can.

The laws read as follows:

Emergency powers by the governor:

Revised Code of Washington (RCW).43.06.220

Power of the Secretary of Health

RCW. 43.70.130

RCW. 70.05.070

Washington Administrative Code

(WAC) 246.100.036

Monday, May 10
Penny

Thank you for standing up for the Constitution, Mayor S.

Wednesday, May 12
Frosted Flake

I am having difficulty finding that bit in the constitution that guarantees the right to spread disease.

Lil' help?

Thursday, May 13