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Official who used racial slur: I’ve gotten more support than criticism

SUTTON’S BAY – Leelanau County Road Commissioner Tom Eckerle refused to take back comments he made earlier this week, when he used a racial slur to suggest Detroit residents were responsible for COVID-19 in Michigan.
Speaking at his home Friday afternoon, Eckerle initially refused to comment on the situation, indicating that he already “gave my piece” and would not comment further. He then referred the reporter to a note on his counter from a supporter that said, “Let me know if you need any support or backup.”
“I’ve got a hell of a lot more of that than I’ve got criticism,” he said.
Eckerle’s critics include his fellow members on the Road Commission, who released a letter Friday calling for
him to resign.
“We will not tolerate any kind of racism in our meeting room or in our organization,” the letter stated.
Eckerle said he had no responsibility to take his critics into account.
More: Leelanau County official uses racial slur to blame coronavirus on Detroiters
More: Gov. Whitmer adds to calls for road commissioner to resign after racial slur
“This goddamn country is going down the tubes, and Black Lives Matter is what the liberals in Washington are using to do it with,” he said. “All you need to do is think, and you can see it. … You don’t need to read the paper, you need to think and you will see what’s happening.”
He later said, “They’re trying to take the country away from us.” He did not respond to follow up questions asking him to specify who “they” and “us” referred to.
He also refused to respond when asked multiple times if he was going to resign, and repeatedly asked a reporter to leave.
In Sutton’s Bay, just north of Eckerle’s home, many residents said they found his statement distasteful.
“I grew up here, and I looked up to the Road Commission, with those big trucks that they drive,” said Hendrix Kohler, 25. “I’ve got two kids now, and I don’t want them looking up to anyone talking like that.”
Mark Forbes, 63, said the statements were “outrageous,” if true. “He’s entitled to say it, but we’re entitled not to have him on the Road Commission,” he said.
“I think it’s appalling,” said Lynne Perkins, 64. “I think there are probably people who will support him in this view, which makes me sad, but I think there are a great many people who will not support him in this view.”


She said she thinks the appropriate action would be for Eckerle to resign.
“I don’t think he should be in any position serving the public if he has those views,” Perkins said.


Efforts by residents are underway to have Eckerle recalled from the Road Commission, which is responsible for maintaining roads in the county.
John Popa, a commission member, said there will be few other options if Eckerle does not resign.


“We don’t have a recourse,” he said. “We will have to probably watch him closely at meetings. He can be called to order by the chair.”
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