The mayor of Dodge City – the legendary town known as a lawless Wild West frontier in the 1800s, complete with saloons and gunfights – abruptly resigned after comments she made in support of a mask mandate provoked a backlash.
“Life has dealt out many challenges in our world that have perhaps caused many people to act inappropriately, but I do not feel safe in this position anymore and am hopeful, in removing myself, this anger, accusations and abuse will not fall on anyone else and will calm down,” Mayor Joyce Warshaw said Tuesday in her resignation letter. Her resignation was effective immediately.
Warshaw said she had been receiving threatening emails and telephone calls since being quoted in a December 11 USA Today article about Dodge City’s delays in imposing a Covid-19 mask mandate, which was finally passed by the City Commission on November 16. “We just felt like we had to do something so everybody was aware of how important it was for everybody to be responsible for each others’ health and well-being,” the retired school principal said.
The city of about 27,000 residents was the setting for the popular ‘Gunsmoke’television series and known for its Boot Hill Cemetery and Long Branch Saloon, and famous lawmen such as Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson. Although it remains a tourist attraction, Dodge City is economically reliant today on meatpacking and cattle feed lots, and farm equipment. The city has a majority-Hispanic population.
Dodge City is the county seat of Ford County, which has reported more than 4,900 Covid-19 cases – equivalent to nearly 15 percent of the population. The US average is around 5.1 percent, by comparison. Ford County has opted out of a statewide mask mandate that was ordered last month.
Many residents have opposed the forced wearing of masks, in some cases arguing that a government mandate is unconstitutionally overreaching.
Dodge City police are reportedly looking into the threats made against Warshaw. The former mayor told the Dodge City Daily Globe her life had been threatened, but added, “I still believe in this city, and I believe in their ability to not harm one another.”