Missouri Mayor Facing Recall Vote for Requiring Masks for 6 Months

In Missouri, where COVID-19 cases are climbing, a small-town mayor is facing a recall vote for dragging out mask mandates and other restrictions despite such requirements being lifted elsewhere.

Nixa Mayor Brian Steele is on the chopping block as voters determine his fate on November 2, the day of the special election, according to the Springfield News-Leader.

City Council granted emergency powers to Steele during the pandemic, which he used to enact the mask ordinance in October. The ordinance ended on April 30.

The recall petition reasoned that Steele "individually and without regard to the citizens of Nixa, nor the vote of city council, enacting a mask mandate, and taking other actions detrimental to the city of Nixa, its economy and the health and welfare of the community in general."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

A Missouri mayor is facing a recall election after instituting a mask mandate in his small town despite them being lifted elsewhere in the state. Signs requiring masks if not vaccinated against Covid-19 are displayed during a hearing about budget estimates for the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the state of medical research on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on May 26, 2021. Stefani Reynolds / POOL / AFP/Getty Images

Nixa, which has about 21,000 residents, is located about 10 miles (16.09 kilometers) south of Springfield, where hospitals are overflowing with COVID-19 patients.

Health officials are blaming low vaccination rates and the Delta variant, first identified in India, for the surge. Just 44.8 percent of the state's residents have received at least the first dose of the vaccine, compared to 54.9 percent nationally.

And the rate is even lower in southwest Missouri. Christian County, where Nixa is located, has a vaccine rate of 35.2 percent. Some nearby counties have rates in the teens.

Christian County Clerk Kay Brown said that the recall petition submitted last week contained 73 valid signatures—six more than the required number. The bar for triggering a recall is 10 percent of the votes cast in the most recent mayoral election.

The recall election is expected to cost between $10,000 and $15,000, Brown said.

The mayor said he's had "dozens" of emails, calls and social media messages of support as the petition to recall him gained steam. He noted that his decision to set up a public masking measure was one made in coordination with the municipal government in the nearby town of Ozark, the Christian County Health Department and other regional health experts.

Recall backers "want to make it seem like it was a single choice that I made by myself, somehow illegally or unethically, but that's definitely not the case," Steele argued.

Steele also pushed back on claims that pandemic safety measures would "destroy" Nixa's economy. Steele said sales tax collections inside Nixa city limits were up 14 percent in 2020 over 2019, despite pandemic disruptions, and that so far this year, sales tax is up 10 percent.

"We have new businesses coming in and opening up, people are still moving here," Steele said.

The Committee to Recall the Mayor of Nixa, Missouri, didn't immediately respond to a Facebook message from the Associated Press seeking comment.

Jill Biden Mask
Nixa Mayor Brian Steele said his public masking decision was made in conjunction with public health experts. First lady Jill Biden adjusts her face mask after addressing U.S. Air Force personnel at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk, England, ahead of the G7 summit in Cornwall, Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Joe Giddens/Pool/via AP